Top 5 Indie Books

The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts

It is fast approach­ing Sep­tem­ber, and I have been priv­i­leged enough to be con­sid­ered a book reviewer by many authors in 2012 after express­ing my inter­est in a blog. Since then, I have been receiv­ing books to read for review by inde­pen­dent authors look­ing to make a break in writing.

If you are on the look­out for books to buy for Christ­mas as a present, do con­sider these.

Here are my top five:

The Medea Com­plex by Rachel Flo­rence Roberts

The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts
Appar­ently based on a true story where a mother killed her new­born child, Anne Stan­bury faces life in an asy­lum after deemed unfit to stand trial for a heinous crime. The story revolves around her, her hus­band and her father, with a psy­chi­a­trist observ­ing her every move.

I liked it because it depicted a true sce­nario, and the twisted plot makes it worth­while a read despite errors in gram­mar and tim­ing of the story. The story started out with Anne being accused of killing her child, but as the story goes along, you would start to ques­tion if every­thing is what it seems.

The Con­ve­nience of Lies by Kim­berly Castillo

The Convenience of Lies by Kimberly Castillo
Another “based on true story” book, this one is true. Macken­zie is attracted to Ramon, a bad boy. Her rela­tion­ship with her best friend, Kira, starts to change as Macken­zie tries to get her love interest’s attention.

This is a book for all, espe­cially young girls, not because it is about a girl try­ing to vie for atten­tion of a boy; but it touches issues that peo­ple tend to avoid, in addi­tion to keep­ing the old themes of friend­ship and betrayal. Fol­low­ing the story, I hon­estly did not real­ize what the mes­sage was until the end of the book, where I finally was taught a valu­able lesson.

Killing Pythago­ras by Mar­cus Chicot

Killing Pythagoras by Marcos Chicot
Pythago­ras was not only a math­e­mati­cian in his time; he was also a founder of a school of thought. After a string of mur­ders in his school, Pythago­ras turns to Akenon, an inves­ti­ga­tor to help solve the mys­tery. Ari­adne, Pythago­ras’ daugh­ter, offers her assistance.

Bear in mind that although Pythago­ras him­self was a fig­ure of his­tory, the story is fic­tion. This story is not a romance story, even though there are some sparks between Akenon and Ari­adne. You would have to be a his­tory buff, or at least have some inter­est in math­e­mat­ics to find this book edu­ca­tional and involv­ing. This book taught me a lot about the great man, and the plot kept me on my toes as well.

The Case of the Explod­ing Speakeasy by David E. Fessenden

The Case of the Exploding Speakeasy by David E. Fessenden
Thomas Wat­son left Lon­don to become a reporter in Philadel­phia to get away from his father, Dr. John Wat­son and his famous friend/ boss: Sher­lock Holmes. Thomas was shocked to learn the death of his father, and the appear­ance of Mycroft (Sherlock’s brother) on his doorsteps. When he was told to cover a story of a speakeasy, Thomas sud­denly has a mys­tery in his hands.

A well writ­ten piece, the whole story was well planned and exe­cuted till the end. When an ille­gal bar exploded, Thomas was unfor­tu­nate (or for­tu­nate) enough to be in vicin­ity. The story was his to report! We just have to remem­ber that Thomas is a man des­per­ate to make a name for him­self as we fol­low the poor man in his inves­ti­ga­tions, and rejoice when he makes a breakthrough.

Accused by Yas­min Shiraz

Accused by Yasmin Shiraz
Syn­op­sis from the author’s web­site: A more peace­ful life seemed to be pos­si­ble for Ahmed and Tashera when they started in Geor­gia Atlantic Uni­ver­sity.  But when Ahmed is accused of a crime that he didn’t com­mit and begins to be tried in the media, his pop­u­lar­ity plum­mets, his self-esteem suf­fers, and his dreams of play­ing col­lege bas­ket­ball disappear.

I rec­om­mend this book for sev­eral rea­sons, and if you have a young adult at home, this is one book that I would encour­age you to try. While the syn­op­sis touches on inno­cence, the whole story has a few strong mes­sages. This book will moti­vate young peo­ple to be more open about cer­tain issues, as I do not want to spoil it, but let me give you a few hints: date rape and false accusations.

 
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Ailyn Koay

Top 5 Indie Books is writ­ten by: Ailyn Koay, blog­ger for Piece of My Mind, a blog at: http://bgtell.blogspot.com.au/

Transcending Mediums

BooksandFilm

In Mem­ory of Robin Williams

As the world mourns the loss of great actor and come­dian Robin Williams, I remem­ber the char­ac­ters he had played and think: how I wish I could write the way he speaks. We all might know him as an actor and come­dian, but not many of us (actu­ally I think we all) knew that he had impro­vised many of the dia­logues and con­ver­sa­tions in the movies, Aladdin being one of them.

What does this have to do with writ­ing? For starters, he was adept in using words; his ad-libs were funny and most impor­tantly mem­o­rable. I was will­ing to trade my soul with the devil for his tal­ent in mak­ing peo­ple laugh so eas­ily in a con­ver­sa­tion. How many of us would love to have his pro­fi­ciency in sto­ry­telling, even though we write ours down and he does it in record­ing? Robin Williams may not be a writer, but if he had become one, I am sure that he would be a best­seller. He could make peo­ple laugh and cry at the same time, just by using words. Watch­ing his past inter­views, he was an hon­est per­son with his trou­bles and per­sonal demons.

I feel that I learnt a lot about writ­ing from the great man him­self. For one, he was ded­i­cated to the char­ac­ter he was play­ing. Look­ing at Mrs. Doubt­fire, he played Iphe­ge­nia Doubt­fire as well as Daniel Hillard, and his demeanour changed when he donned the mask. Just like that, we should be mind­ful of the per­son­al­i­ties of the char­ac­ters we cre­ate, and always stay true to them. How­ever, it is harder than it seems, because many of us seem to pre­fer to adapt the char­ac­ter to the story, rather than cre­at­ing a con­flict that needs to be resolved, mak­ing the story more interesting.

Another thing that Robin Williams did well was his under­stand­ing of his audi­ence; you would have to, if you want to enter­tain them. You could say that he is empa­thetic, or just a genius at read­ing peo­ple and that is why peo­ple love him. Under­stand­ing your audi­ence is cru­cial if you want to sell your work, because if your work does not res­onate with your read­ers, chances are they will not come back for more. Know­ing your tar­get audi­ence, what pleases them, what offends them is impor­tant, so you can decide how far you want to push the enve­lope dur­ing a conflict.

As writ­ers, our aim is to enter­tain and inspire our read­ers. Who bet­ter to look up to than the leg­end that has suc­ceeded in doing both? He was an artist who brought peo­ple together in laugh­ter and tears, and no one would for­get about him soon. But rather than mourn­ing our loss, we should fill the world with laugh­ter and kind­ness in his mem­ory, using the things he had taught us as enter­tain­ers using words.

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Ailyn Koay

Tran­scend­ing Medi­ums is writ­ten by: Ailyn Koay, blog­ger for Piece of My Mind, a blog at: http://bgtell.blogspot.com.au/

Sentence Level Checklist

checklist

There are a lot of sen­tence level pit­falls we tend to make as writ­ers. A few of those are listed below. Give your story a pass with this check­list to punch up the effec­tive­ness of your writ­ing.

Keep in mind that these items are not inher­ently wrong by any means. It is just that we tend to overuse them in sit­u­a­tions where there is a stronger, clearer, more effec­tive option.

Pas­sive Voice

I am sure you have heard to look out for the pas­sive voice before, but it is still a good idea to keep an eye out for it. Usu­ally, it weak­ens sentences.

Active ver­sion: The rebels attacked the cas­tle. (The sub­ject, the rebels, is per­form­ing the action, attacked.)
Pas­sive exam­ple: The cas­tle was attacked by the rebels. (The sub­ject, the rebels, is being acted upon, attacked.)

In the pas­sive ver­sion, the focus is taken off the rebels and given to the cas­tle. The inten­tion was for the rebels to be the focus.

Also in the pas­sive ver­sion, the cas­tle is not doing any­thing. Whereas in the active form, the rebels are doing some­thing. So, the pas­sive form cre­ates a weaker, more dis­tant sen­tence con­struc­tion. It also makes the sen­tence slightly wordier.

Adverbs

Often we pair an adverb with a weak verb, when one, dif­fer­ent and stronger verb would have been bet­ter than both. For exam­ple: He moved slowly down the corridor.

Moved is a very generic verb, not very impact­ful. And slowly is an adverb that just adds wordiness.

Instead, one stronger verb could replace these two words: He crept down the corridor.

Crept con­veys a stronger image to the reader, makes for a less wordy sen­tence, and con­veys more accu­rately the inten­tion to the reader.

Do not think adverbs are by neces­sity evil though and remove them whole­sale. There may be times when pair­ing an adverb with a verb is jus­ti­fied or bet­ter than using one verb alone.

Fil­ter­ing

Fil­ter­ing is expe­ri­enc­ing the writ­ing through another, unnec­es­sary layer of words. It dilutes the writer’s intention.

Let’s take a very basic exam­ple: She felt mad.

Okay, the sen­tence gets the point across, but wouldn’t it be stronger and more effec­tive if we show how she is feel­ing? She pounded her fist against her desk repeatedly.

Other com­mon fil­ter­ing words include: seem, watch, decide, won­der, saw, and hear. Instead of using these words, con­sider just show­ing what some­one sees or hears.

The Reader

For each chap­ter or sec­tion in your story, ask, What do I want the reader to get out of this? and What effect do I want it to have on the reader? Your goal for a chap­ter may be to move the reader emo­tion­ally or to scare them.

What­ever effect you desire, just keep­ing it in mind will go a long way in improv­ing the reader expe­ri­ence. It will help guide your writ­ing toward express­ing that inten­tion.

Clichés & Mis­used Words

Make your own list of clichés and mis­used words, then remove and fix them through­out your story.
Some com­mon cliche exam­ples include: The time of my life, sweat­ing bul­lets, the quiet before the storm, you can’t judge a book by its cover, burn the mid­night oil, sick as a dog, etc, etc, etc.

Some com­mon mis­used words include: than/then, your/you’re, bear/bare, affect/effect, lay/lie, Its/It’s

Sen­sory Detail

Some­times in the early drafts of a story, writ­ers skim over sen­sory descrip­tion and other details that really help bring the story to life. Go back over sec­tions you con­sider espe­cially weak in this and beef them up.

First pass: He ran through the gar­den.
After adding sen­sory detail: With only the moon­light to guide him, he ran over the wet grass. His feet crushed the twigs and bram­ble caus­ing the faintest crack­ing. The only other sound was an owl hoot­ing in the dis­tance. The smell of laven­der was heavy in the air and made him think of a past lover.

The sen­sory descrip­tion helps bring the scene to life.

Read it Aloud

So sim­ple to do, yet very effec­tive. Your ear will catch faults that your eyes did not.

Cus­tomize

Maybe most impor­tant of all these tips is to per­son­al­ize your own check­list, cus­tomiz­ing it to your weaker aspects of writ­ing. Con­sider pri­or­i­tiz­ing the list, as well, plac­ing the most impor­tant aspects to work on at the top of the list. That way if you are rush­ing to fin­ish or meet a dead­line and you can not get to every­thing, at least you will resolve those larger issues.

We hope this offered some help and sparked some ideas. What are some check­list items you use? Let us know in the comments.

Poetry in Prose

Dante Alighieri

Prose is the go-to method when writ­ing fic­tion. It is basic text with­out regard to any struc­ture or the sound of words. It is clear, straight-forward, easy to under­stand, and is often the best method of deliv­er­ing a story. But, uti­liz­ing poetic devices and tech­niques can enhance your story, make it more effec­tive, and add a plea­sur­able ele­ment to your writ­ing.

Dante Alighieri

The Sound

The writ­ten word is visual and con­veys mean­ing just by the reader look­ing at it. But, it is still incred­i­bly con­nected to sound. For instance, don’t you, at least some­times, hear the sound of the words in your head when you are read­ing? Or, you have sounded a word out when try­ing to fig­ure out how to spell it?

By tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion that there is an almost auto­matic con­nec­tion to sound in writ­ten lan­guage, writ­ers can find new and inter­est­ing ways to enhance the read­ing expe­ri­ence by uti­liz­ing poetic devices that play with sound. Con­sider these:

  • Allit­er­a­tion – Rep­e­ti­tion of con­so­nant sounds, pri­mar­ily at the begin­ning of words.
    Exam­ple: Peter Parker (You see this a lot in comic book names.)
  • Asso­nance – Rep­e­ti­tion of vowel sounds.
    Exam­ple: I saw the lying man die after com­mit­ting the crime. (The I sound is repeated through­out the sentence.)
  •  Ono­matopoeia – Words that sound like what they mean.
    Exam­ple: Boom! Splat! Driz­zle, Splash.
  • Rep­e­ti­tion – Obvi­ous, but the same word or idea occur­ring mul­ti­ple times.
    Exam­ple: The phrase “So it goes,” in Slaughterhouse-Five.
  • Rhythm and Stress – The pat­tern and flow of sen­tences and para­graphs. This can include word, sen­tence, and para­graph length, as well as the pat­tern of stressed and unstressed syl­la­bles.
    Exam­ple: I am a man in need of food and drink as well as love. (The words in bold are stressed, and this pat­tern of unstressed, then stressed syl­la­bles makes for a par­tic­u­lar rhythm.

These sound devices and tech­niques might be espe­cially use­ful for names of peo­ple or places, as names will be repeated more often by the reader than other parts of the text. One mem­o­rable name from The Hal­loween Tree by Ray Brad­bury is Cara­pace Clav­i­cle Mound­shroud. A name that evokes dread and fun at the same time, and is also a lot of fun to say.

Depth and Meaning

But not all poetic devices are con­cerned solely with sound. Think of the following:

  •  Imagery – Lan­guage that seeks to invoke sen­sory details (visu­als, sounds, feel­ings, smells, tastes) in the reader’s mind.
  • Theme – A cen­tral idea to the story. Usu­ally every­thing else in the story implies or reflects the theme.
    Exam­ple: Hubris/pride is a theme of Franken­stein.
  •  Sym­bol­ism – Some­thing (objects, actions, peo­ple even) that rep­re­sents more than just itself.
    Exam­ple: The apple that Adam and Eve eat is more than just a piece of fruit.
  •  Tone — The atti­tude of the writer toward what they are writ­ing about.
    Exam­ple: A novel can have a comedic tone or a dra­matic tone. The way in which the story is told through word choice and how the author and/or nar­ra­tor feels about the sub­ject mat­ter of the story cre­ates a par­tic­u­lar feel­ing in the reader.
  •  Per­son­i­fi­ca­tion - Describ­ing inan­i­mate objects with ani­mate char­ac­ter­is­tics.
    Exam­ple: The sun smiled upon the town. (The sun is not lit­er­ally smil­ing, but the com­par­i­son evokes a gen­eral feel­ing of con­tent­ment in the town as the sun is described as if it were alive.)
  •  Irony - A dis­crep­ancy in what is told and what actu­ally is. It is often achieved when there are two par­ties (such as the reader and a char­ac­ter), and one is aware of some­thing that the other is not.
    Exam­ple: A char­ac­ter is idly going about their busi­ness unaware of the killer stalk­ing them (whom the reader is aware of).
  •  Hyper­bole - Essen­tially exag­ger­a­tion. It adds empha­sis and can be used to humor­ous or dra­matic effect.
    Exam­ple: She bab­bled on for days. (Well, she may be chatty, but in real­ity she only bab­bled on for twenty minutes.)
  •  Alle­gory - Abstract qual­i­ties rep­re­sented in char­ac­ters or events.
    Exam­ple: In Moby Dick, the hunt for the whale rep­re­sents deeper, philo­soph­i­cal ideas than just guys out to hunt a whale.
  •  Metaphor – Com­par­ing two dis­sim­i­lar but some­how con­nected things (with­out using the words like or as–that is sim­ile).
    Exam­ple: Their love was a dying sun in a con­demned galaxy. (The love is not lit­er­ally a dying sun, but it con­veys an idea of inevitable fail­ing to these par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ters’ love.

Not based solely on sound, these devices and tech­niques more read­ily trans­fer to fic­tion. Employ­ing them can often make your prose feel more poetic, with­out it sound­ing so.

And, of course, there are many more use­ful poetic devices (sound-based and not) than all of the ones listed here.

SO WHY

So, why do any of this? Well, it is a mat­ter of effec­tive­ness and the way the story is cre­ated in the reader’s mind. The shape, sound, pat­tern, phras­ing, and impli­ca­tion of words can con­vey a scene more vividly for a reader.

Pat­tern and sound for instance can cre­ate a more pleas­ant and clear read­ing expe­ri­ence for the reader as words and ideas flow read­ily and sim­ply when used with the rhetoric of poetry.

Poetic devices and tech­niques can also make for a dif­fer­ent fla­vor or feel in the read­ing expe­ri­ence; and maybe that fla­vor or feel relates well to the sub­ject mat­ter of your story. Take for exam­ple falling in love. It is a very poetic expe­ri­ence unto itself, even when not using any poetic devices. But, using them can bet­ter con­vey that feel­ing of falling in love to the reader.

With fic­tion, the writer’s con­cen­tra­tion is on con­vey­ing the story in the most effec­tive and effi­cient man­ner pos­si­ble. Often, writ­ers strive to make their prose as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble, so that the mean­ing of the words appear in the reader’s head with­out much inter­fer­ence from the actual word. They do not focus on the audi­ble side to lan­guage or styl­ized, poetic tech­niques and devices.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t enhance your writ­ing, make it more effec­tive, or just add another ele­ment to it that you find appeal­ing by adding poetry to your prose. So, although not nec­es­sary to cre­ate a good story, it is one more use­ful tool to keep in mind when writ­ing prose.

In the Tall Grass by Stephen King & Joe Hill

in-the-tall-grass-ebook

In the Tall Grass

Dur­ing a cross-country trip, sib­lings Cal and Becky Demuth stop to inves­ti­gate the sounds of a child call­ing for help from the sur­round­ing field of grass.

What fol­lows is tense, excit­ing, and mys­te­ri­ous as the sib­lings become sep­a­rated, lost, and dis­ori­ented, not know­ing where the child is or how to make it back to the rest stop they parked at. In the field of grass, they encounter strange peo­ple and things that test the lim­its of their sanity.

in-the-tall-grass-ebook

This intense novella was col­lab­o­ra­tively writ­ten by Stephen King and Joe Hill. It car­ries the grim fore­bod­ing of some sim­i­lar King sto­ries, such as Chil­dren of the Corn and N., as well as the descent into mad­ness found in H.P. Love­craft. But, it feels dif­fer­ent enough. So if you like those, it’s fairly safe to assume you will like this.

 

The Set­ting

One of the high­lights of this story is the tall grass itself. It’s very much a char­ac­ter, tak­ing on sin­is­ter char­ac­ter­is­tics. It seem­ingly manip­u­lates the sib­lings like an intel­li­gent and sadis­tic trick­ster. The loom­ing, oppres­sive atmos­phere cre­ated heav­ily by the grass con­sumes the char­ac­ters and reader alike.

The tall grass has its own implied back-story, which adds to the mys­tery and depth of its char­ac­ter. Attrib­utes of incom­pre­hen­si­bil­ity and com­plete mali­cious­ness add to its haunt­ing nature. You get hints at how long it may have been the way it is and other col­or­ings of its mythol­ogy. Although fea­tured lit­tle, the rest stop makes for a great set­ting also—it’s always a great start­ing point for a hor­rific tale.

 

The Hor­ror

Both authors are experts work­ing ten­sion, pres­sure, and fear, and the reader gets a heavy, con­densed dose of that in this novella.

The pres­sure to escape, espe­cially since the sis­ter is preg­nant, is high. The ten­sion stays taught as the sib­lings strug­gle with want­ing to help the lit­tle boy, but not los­ing them­selves in the process. They want to find a way out of the grass and under­stand what is hap­pen­ing, but can’t.

The authors effec­tively por­tray the fear of being sep­a­rated, and the fear when your brain fully clicks over to real­iz­ing you can­not escape. And of the fear of incom­pre­hen­si­ble, over­whelm­ing men­ace and hor­ror, dizzy­ing the brain with the sur­real real­ity that ratio­nal­iza­tion just will not work in these situations.

Keep in mind, this story is intense and prob­a­bly not for every­one. It is very graphic, bru­tal, and grue­some at parts. But it is a creepy good time. Also, make sure to check out another col­lab­o­ra­tion by Joe Hill and Stephen King called Throt­tle.