Back in January, I blogged about new reading goals for this year. The plan was to read a lot more nonfiction and I have, but many of the topics were so heavy and thought-provoking that I found myself needing a breather. So, I also chose fantasy and mystery novels.
Last week (Aug. 9) was Book Lovers Day, which I somehow missed, probably because it was a really busy work day. On the other hand, every day is book lover’s day for me.
By the way, here’s a bit if trivia I got from a newsletter I subscribe to. Those of you who are readers won’t be surprised that to learn that according to a study in Social Science & Medicine, book readers live two years longer on average than people who don’t read. Reading books boosts brain health and lowers stress hormones. Doesn’t surprise you, right?
Among the 27 books I’ve read so far this year, some of my favorite nonfiction is:
- Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon
- Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
- A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
- I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin (Raoul Peck, Ed.)
- No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula le Guin
- The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage by David E. Hoffman
- Feeding Frenzy: Land Grabs, Price Spikes & The World Food Crises by Paul McMahon
Some of my favorite fiction is:
- Cobra Clutch by A.J. Devlin
- Give Out Creek by J.G. Toews
- To Sleep With Stones by WL Hawkin
- Two Clever By Half by Will North
- The Forgotten Girls by Alexa Steele
Eighteen of the books I’ve read are fiction, which suggests that the nonfiction choices are making a greater impact on me than fiction, which is probably an issue of content rather than the quality of writing. As a mystery writer, I’m a bit more critical of fiction than nonfiction.
I’m behind in my 50 book goal, but I’m working on picking up the pace. After all, there’s nothing better than sitting out on my deck, glass of wine in one hand, a good book in the other. So, what are your favorite reads so far this year?
Taking part in craft fairs and other events has been one of the highlights of my year so far. This month, I’ll take part in three more events, all of which I’ve done before, and I can’t wait to go back.
You can find all of them listed on my website’s News and Events page at http://www.debrapurdykong.com/news-and-events.html
The first one is on Aug. 18th and I invite anyone living in and around the Chilliwack area to visit this event. There will be live music, and the organizers are going out of their way to make it a fun, kid-friendly event with games and even a photo booth.
The week after, on Sun. the 26th, I’ll be at Art on the Vine in Langley. I love this event because vendors can drink wine if they want, though I don’t often do until late in the day.
Lastly, I’ll be out at the Haney Farmers Market on Sat. Sept. 1 at Memorial Peace Park on 224th Street, right in front of The ACT. Vendors are there from 10 – 2 pm, so it’s a fairly short event, but I like this one because of the wonderful produce and baked goods I can buy there. So, come join the summer fun if you can!
As much as I love writing mystery novels, it means spending a lot of hours dwelling on the darker side of human nature. I also spend what some might consider far too many hours pondering creative ways to kill characters in my Casey Holland mystery series. A while ago I felt a need to lighten things up by writing a shorter, more humorous Casey novella.
After writing the first draft, I brought a few chapters to my writers’ group for critiquing. The feedback was great and the idea of a novella well received. I’ve gone on to complete five more drafts and by the end of this summer, I’ll start the final edit of Man in a Gold Satin Thong. (Honestly, I had no trouble coming up with the title for this book!)
As you can imagine, the book cover has interesting possibilities. I think the cover should still connect with the transit theme from previous covers, but it will need a much lighter tone compared to the covers you see here from the last two books.
I might write future Casey novellas, so now I’m wondering if the novella should state “Casey Holland Mystery Novella #1” on the cover, when in fact it’s my sixth Casey Holland story.
So, once again, I’m looking for thoughts on this, and thanks!
During the editing process of my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, my publisher asked me to submit a timeline of events so that the editor could keep track of the story’s continuity. Although I’d always used outlines, I hadn’t kept a detailed hourly timeline of events. Now, I couldn’t imagine writing without one.
As you can imagine, timing is crucial in thriller/mystery novels. I need to know what’s happening to whom, where, why, and when, sometimes right down to the minute. Think about it. If you’ve set up a traumatic event like a high school shooting, then you’d better make sure that your protagonist isn’t at Sunday church services when it happens.
I use an Excel spreadsheet to nail down my timeline. I’m sure there are useful apps out there to do this now, but I’m used to Excel. It’s simple, flexible, and free. My 6th Casey Holland mystery is 35 chapters long, but to keep the sheet from becoming too wide, I start a new column below chapter one at the halfway point. Everything is on one sheet and easy to see at a glance. Here’s a sample of the first six chapters:
|on bus with Wesley-riot
||at home after the riot-Lou introduced
||at meeting with Stan-talks to Benny & learns more about Lou’s injuries
||on the bus with the Friends-Benny attacked
||attack scene at Benny’s bus. Glimpse of suspect
||staff mtg. at MPT – graffiti on bldg. Just over a week since the riot.
The opening chapters are straightforward and don’t require many notes, but there’s room to added things if needed. As the book goes on, descriptions grow longer. The names and abbreviated content won’t mean much to you, but notice that the date, weekday and time of day are at the top of each column. Those are the details I’m going to forget during the numerous drafts.
I wait until the second or third draft before creating an Excel sheet because I know that chapters will either be merged or deleted during the first couple of rewrites.
Real-life disruptions can pull us away from writing projects for weeks or even months at a time. Using a timeline will help get you back on track quickly. It’ll also save you time and money if you’re hiring an editor. So, find a way that works for you and go for it. The bit of extra work is well worth the effort.
I want to thank everyone who took the time to share their thoughts about my list of potential book titles. The majority of respondents voted for The Blade Man, followed by Senseless Acts. Dead Set and Hell-Bent also earned a nod each.
So, with this 6th draft well underway, I’ll incorporate a couple more references to The Blade Man, and see how it reads when I begin the seventh and hopefully finally, draft a few weeks from now.
Slowly, I’m getting closer to finalizing this novel. Of course, there’s the back cover blurb to tackle, which is something I always need help with. I’m grateful that I have a writers’ group to run it by. The blurb will likely show up on this blog as well!
I really appreciate all of the support. Since I shifted my blog to WordPress a little over a year ago, I’ve met a great community of writers, bloggers, and readers. There are so many great blogs and books to read, but so little time. Still, I keep trying.
Two weeks ago, I blogged about my struggle to find a title for my 6th Casey Holland mystery, I’ve been giving titles a lot of thought since then, especially since I’m closing in on finishing the 6th draft.
Thanks to all of those who provided helpful comments, and I’ve managed to come up with a shortlist of candidates. To me, each of the eight listed below speaks to the theme and/or crimes in the book, but let’s approach this from another angle.
Suppose you were browsing through the mystery/thriller section in a bookstore, and saw a title on a book that you knew nothing about. Would any of these titles make you want to pick up the book and read the back cover? Maybe flip through a few pages?
- Senseless Acts
- The Blade Man
- Dead Set
Please let me know which one(s) capture your attention, or if none of them do, and thanks again for your input!