22 Summer 2016 Books You Won’t Want To Miss

reading-in-a-park-1312435From the Huffington Post:

Soak up these family dramas, advice column collections and near-future hijinks.

This summer, in addition to the obvious 2016 warm-weather pastime of drinking watermelon water while listening to “Lemonade,” we’re looking forward to reading new books! Because, although we are big proponents of couch lounging, reading in the grass while using a book to shield your eyes from the sun has its particular joys.

Thankfully, there’re a lot to choose from. It may not be the summer of “the next next ‘Gone Girl,’” but there’s a meticulously wrought new thriller out in June, one that examines a violently broken relationship between sisters. There’s also a wry adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” a screwball story set in 2052, and a new slate of advice columns from Heather Havrilesky, aka Ask Polly. Choose wisely, dear readers; in our opinion, you can’t go wrong with one of the following.

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Four quick reads on writing

When I was on vacation earlier this month, I read some e-books on writing. Even though these gems were inexpensive and quick, they provided me with some valuable lessons to apply to my writing craft.

Here they are:

  • 2940045351874_p0_v2_s192x300Self-publishing a Book
    By Hank Quense
    Quense has a great series on self-publishing and this is the second one I’ve read. He’s great about explaining why he does it the way he does, but let’s the reader know everyone needs to self-publish the way that is best for himself. Good advice on what publisher to use. I will be coming back to this book as a reference.
  • 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
    2940152280371_p0_v1_s192x300By Rachel Aaron
    I loved Aaron’s Eli Monpress series and I can’t wait to read more of her stuff. She gives advice on how to increase the amount of writing that gets done during a writing session by applying her triangle of knowledge, time and enthusiasm. Now, if that sounds vague, she does get specific about what they mean in this book.
  • Writing from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone In Between
    By James Scott Bell
    9780910355117_p0_v1_s192x300I love Kill Zone, a blog for which Bell contributes as part of a community of writers. This book provided a fascinating piece of advice about character development for novel writing: the “Mirror Moment.” Once again, it’s something I knew already, but didn’t know I knew. This quick read will change the way you plan your novel–and it’s easy to apply to a draft you’ve already started.
  • Scrivener Superpowers: How to Use Cutting-Edge Software to Energize Your Creative Writing Process
    By M.G. Herron
    2940157649920_p0_v1_s192x300I already read several books on Scrivener when I first learned to use it. The difference between those books (although they were wonderful and helpful) and this one is that Scrivener Superpowers gets into the nitty-gritty of not just learning to use it, but how to use is as a writer. His No-Nonsense Novel Template is also great.

So if you’re looking for some quick lessons for improving your fiction writing with maximum impact, you should check these books out. I highly recommend them.

Support Self-Published Writers and Small Publishing Houses

printing-press-1181030.jpgAs I plan my reading list for 2016, I want to include several self-published writers and small, independent publishing companies. So far I plan to read the following:

In Passing

41h0dp9njSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Check out JR Wirth‘s new book In Passing. I designed the cover! Here’s some promo copy:

“Trying to bring closure to her haunted youth, Mary Elizabeth Stroll’s past and present converge during a haunting, day-long interview. In Passing is a dark, yet romantic, paranormal tale, which thrusts two adolescent, suicide victims into a haunting afterlife odyssey where they find love and meaning. The journey leads them to intervene in the lives of other distressed young people, all the while amorous feelings grow. The two are then reunited with their lifeless bodies to search for the truth and their lost love.”

Books on writing I read in 2015

Every year I try and read a couple of books on the writing craft. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but,  honestly, I love reading stuff on how to write fiction. Here is what I read in 2015:

2940151898539_p0_v3_s192x300Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir
by Hank Quense
Quense offers practical tips on how he writes his novels. What I want is something I haven’t heard before, and that’s what I got with this book. At the beginning, he suggests the reader to just take what he or she needs. Good advice. Not everyone thinks the same way, and, also, who wants to read the same thing over and over?

9780985780401_p0_v1_s192x300Structuring Your Novel
by K.M. Weiland
Weiland shows how to make the most of using the three-act structure as you write your novel. She has become sort of an online tutor/mentor to me because books like this one answer my questions about writing fiction.

51QhpMsap6L._UY250_Your Guide to Scrivener by Nicole Dionisio
Scrivener is a program to help writers organize their projects, both fiction and non-fiction. I can’t praise the software enough. There are dozens of books out there to show the writer how to use Scrivener, and I picked this by Nicole Dionisio. I admit I selected because it was the cheapest ebook on the subject I could find. But it’s all okay, because she did a great job and the book is short, so you can learn Scrivener quickly.

Some memoirs I read in 2015

I read several biographies/autobiographies/memoirs this past year, and here is what I thought of them:

9780316334310_p0_v2_s192x300Born With Teeth
by Kate Mulgrew
Actress Kate Mulgrew offers up vignettes of her life as an actress and also her personal triumphs and tragedies. Some remember her as Mary Ryan on Ryan’s Hope; some remember her as Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager; some now know her as Red on Orange Is the New Black. The nerd in me was hoping to get more behind-the-scenes stories about Voyager, and while she goes in to detail about how she landed that iconic role, she only glosses over her eight-year run as a captain for the Federation. But that’s okay. This memoir is well-written and is focused around her heartache of giving away a daughter at birth.

9781937009304_p0_v1_s192x300For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher
by Jason Sizemore
Jason Sizemore gives the history of how he started his own small publishing company of horror fiction. While this book would be interesting to those in the independent publishing field, I’m not sure the appeal goes beyond that. The problem with this book is that the author doesn’t seem to know what kind of book it’s supposed to be. Is it a memoir? Is it a how-to? He includes some well-told anecdotes, but I’m not sure most people would get into this one.

9780618871711_p0_v2_s192x300Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
by Alison Bechdel
A beautifully illustrated comic book style narrative about Bechdel’s dysfunctional childhood. The author had to be brave to share her story about her eccentric father and his early death. She struggles with her relationship with him and finds a connection with him in an unusual way. Warning: adult situations in this story.

9780374531263_p0_v5_s192x300A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
In the early 90’s, a boy from a village in Sierra Leone is forced to join the rebel’s army. This is the author’s version of his story and how he escape the fighting. Apparently there is some speculation about the accuracy of the author’s memories, but it’s still a great read that reveals the tragedy of children in politically-motivated combat.

9781453258132_p0_v1_s192x300The Man in the Empty Boat
by Mark Salzman
I enjoyed Salzman’s Iron and Silk and True Notebooks, but I realized he hadn’t written anything in a while. This book explains why. Salzman tells about his crippling anxiety and how it affected his life, including his writing, and also how he dealt with the death of his sister.

My favorite fiction titles I read this past year

See, I read stuff besides Science Fiction & Fantasy.

9781476746586_p0_v9_s192x300All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; World War II Fiction
An indirect connection between a blind French girl and a German soldier boy guides them through the ravishes of Germany’s invasion of France. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel can be compared to The Book Thief.

9780451526342_p0_v1_s192x300Animal Farm by George Orwell
Genre: Classic; Allegory; Distopian
Orwell describes the rise of the Soviet Union using animals on a farm. Yes, this is the first time I’ve read this classic, because I never encountered it in high school language arts classes. I appreciated the review of Soviet history and wondered if anyone is paying attention to the lessons of this story.

9780679745655_p0_v1_s192x300Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Genre: Classic; Fiction; Novella
In the 1940s, an American writer becomes fascinated with an outspoken woman in his apartment building who has an outspoken personality and a hidden past. This short novel reminds me of The Great Gatsby in some ways: narrator becomes slightly obsessed with a larger-than-life neighbor.

9780451232700_p0_v1_s192x300Caught by Harlan Coben
Genre: Murder Mystery
A social worker is accused of a horrible crime, and reporter Wendy Tines investigates a story that unravels into a complex web. Not a genre I’ve read much, but I really enjoyed this fast-paced thriller. If you are looking for a good book to read on the beach, this one will hit the spot.

9781400034710_p0_v2_s192x300Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Genre: Murder Mystery; Novella
This author is better known for his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, but this is the first work of his I have read. It’s a short novel about a murder that transpires in a Columbian town. The reader knows who the murderer is, but the author spends most of the book unraveling why the murder took place. After reading this, I will give One Hundred Years of Solitude a try.

9780399501487_p0_v1_s192x300Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Genre: Classic; Young Adult Fiction
I have seen the movies and I finally got around to reading the classic novel.  A group of British boys get stuck on an island and they try to govern themselves. Unfortunately, the results are terrifying. This book has changed people’s lives with its commentary on the human condition. It’s a pretty violent and thought-provoking novel for its time, the 1950’s.

9780143039976_p0_v1_s192x300 We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Genre: Classic; Horror
Merricat Blackwood, her sister and uncle live in an old mansion on the edge of town. Something chilling has happened to the other family members. This is a pretty creepy story written by the same person who wrote the famous short story that terrified me in high school: The Lottery. Jackson is one of the 20th century’s under-appreciated writers. This book is a good one to read around Halloween.