Sunday, January 17, 2016

When Can I Read Your Book?

Being a writer, I naturally get excited when I’m nearing the end of a story whether I’m close to finishing a rough draft or a final one. Because of this excitement, I’m bound to talk about it whenever people ask me how I am. (I don’t do regular small talk. If you ask, “How are you?” be prepared for a ten-minute conversation on whatever fandom is on my mind.)

Either way, one of the most common things I hear from friends is, “Oh, you’ve written a book! Can I read it?” One of two things can happen from here. In the case of finishing a rough draft, I’ll feel like cringing. It’s FAR from ready! In the case of a nearly finished draft, I might get frustrated with the over-eagerness of readers. After all, I can’t just hand out copies of my story EVERY time people ask to read it (unless that person is an agent/editor). That would be bad business.

Something a lot of readers fail to realize is that writing is just that: a business. So before you ask a writer for a pre-release copy of his/her novel, consider in what ways this could impact the writer. Now, that’s not to say that a writer will NEVER send out pre-release copies. If you’re really eager to read a book before it’s published, you might serve as a beta reader, giving the writer your thoughts on the story in the earlier drafts. Or you could request a pre-release copy closer to the publication date in exchange for an honest book review. But what exactly can readers do if the drafts are nearly finished but not published yet?

A friend brought it to my attention the other day that I kept saying I wrote a book but whenever he asked to read it, I said blatantly said, “NO.” I was tactless to the say the least. (But that’s nothing new. I’ve been told I can be brutally honest sometimes because I expect brutal honesty.)

What I should have said, was “Yes, but not yet.”

What I wish readers would ask instead of “Can I read your book?” is “When can I read your book?”

Notice the subtle difference? Including WHEN  implies an expectation that the story will be available to read soon, and even if soon means 1-2 years, this is encouraging to writers. Leaving WHEN out implies that the because a writer has a story (not necessarily a published one) that writer has an obligation to allow EVERYBODY to read it. And saying, “No, you can’t read it,” or even better “Not yet,” can seem like a letdown for both the reader and writer.

Put another way, consider this scenario: a baker who’s making a bread for his store. If somebody were to come in and ask him/her to taste the dough before it goes in the oven, “Can I have a piece?”, the baker will obviously say no. But if the person asks “When can I have a piece?”, the baker may reply with a given time to cook and cool.

It’s similar (not the same) with books. Pre-published books, while they may be ready to be read before publication, they are not ready to be SOLD. Besides, suspense is half the fun! Please don’t harass writers if they’re caught between the pre-publication and post-editing stages.

So, my answer to everybody’s question when you can read my latest novel ,Breaking a Thief, is soon. Not yet. But soon. I’ll keep you posted when I finally get a contract with a publisher. I’d like to say sometime in 2016, but it might be 2017. Either way, it’s sooner than it was yesterday! Thanks to all those interested in reading my work. Until my book releases, you can check out some of my short stories and poetry here.

Aside from the premise and the novel itself, what would you like to read next about Breaking a Thief?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The First Fifty Pages

Many writers put much effort into the first five pages of their stories, or maybe even the first chapter or even the first line. But what if I told you I don’t usually read a book based on the first five pages or even the first line. In fact, I’ve read excellent first lines and not continued the story or was totally oblivious to the beauty of a well-written opening. Maybe this makes me a poor reader or simply one who’s hard toe please. Either way, I don’t usually read a book based off the first chapter. (I’m also a bookworm who is terrible at casually browsing books in libraries and bookstores, but that’s another story).

So, you might ask: How do I decide if a book is good enough to read? Well, typically, there are three ways I find a book to read: 1) it’s required reading for class (I’m an English Literature major), 2) it was recommended by a friend/author, or 3) I stumbled upon it online and read reviews. Sometimes the book’s cover may make me want to buy it even more. That’s right. I said it. Not the title. The cover.

Once I have the book in my hands (usually I borrow it from the library unless I trust the author/recommender) I may or may not read it, but I don’t base it on the first five pages but the first thirty pages. If a story doesn’t pick up after then, I may get bored and return the book, or I may continue just to see if it ever does pick up. (I once got two thirds of the way through a boring book and finally put it down when I realized it would never get better.)

Perhaps I’m not as overwhelmed by curiosity as other people. Until I actually care about the protagonist or other characters, mere curiosity isn’t enough. (This is why, until recently, it was literally an impossible for me to get through the Mission Impossible movies. Somebody just died in the first five minutes? Who was that anyway?)

With the books I pick up, I will read the first three chapters or the first fifty pages before I decide whether or not it is worth reading. By then, I will have some idea who the characters are and if they are worth spending 300+ pages with.

While books may be competing with movies for people’s attention, most people who intentionally sit down to read a book are likely have longer attention spans than those who don’t read at all. Sure, there are reluctant readers, and I applaud authors who write books for them. Rick Rordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians is an excellent example of a series specifically geared to children/young adults with a short attention span.

Nonetheless, plenty of classics exist that don’t suck readers in from the first five pages. Take the Lord of the Rings, for example. It took me almost an entire year to read The Fellowship of the Ring because I took month-long breaks between chapters. Right now, I’m still struggling through the Silmarillion. And this is coming from an avid Tolkien fan who has LotR marathons at least once a year and could never choose between Middle Earth and Narnia.

Similarly, I don’t remember the opening lines of The Book Thief or Inkdeath. And neither of these books were particularly fast reads. But they are stories I enjoyed over a longer period of time.  

Ultimately, I don’t read all books because they are fast-paced adventures (though some portions certainly may be fast-paced). I tend to read books because they have quality. While having a gripping opening to a book may help in some cases, it is not the end-all-be-all in a quality literature. Some days, I want a book that will grab my attention by the first chapter and hold it to the end, and other days, I’ll sit down to enjoy a story over the course of several days. That’s when I’ll read the first fifty pages.

How long does it usually take you to decide whether or not you’ll read an entire book? What are some books you enjoyed despite the opening pages/chapters?

Literary references: Rick Rordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Simarillion, and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, and Cornelia Funke’s Inkdeath.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Flour: A Poem

I’m trying something new this year. Instead of posting a book review every month, I shall be writing a poem instead. While I will continue to read, and (hopefully) review books, I do not have the time to dedicate the book reviews on a monthly basis. Instead, I shall be posting three unscheduled reviews of books released this year and sharing poetry with you on a monthly basis. I find poems just come to me, especially when I’m stressed and working on essays or research.

I wrote this one based off my experience as a college student. As a 20-something-year-old, I often find myself lost in an overwhelming world of choices, choices concerning my future, when I’m already under loads of stress. I find myself asking questions like: How will I find a job after I graduate? Where will I live if I don’t even have a home country? Can I even look for a job when I can barely complete my essays in time and cooking meals becomes a daily chore? These are just a few of the questions running through my mind that I’m sure many college students can relate with. The unknown can be frightening.

Without further ado, here is my first poem for this year. Dedicated to the People-Who-Don’t-Know-What-They’re-Doing-With-Their-Lives.


The silent screech of chalk on a chalkboard rolls between your fingers.
Sweep the silky silver cobwebs from the corners of your mind,
nurture, feed, stuff it ‘till it’s full and empty it again. The sound of
heeled shoes echoing on the wooden floor, creaking from the weight,
bending as the imagination swirls, stretches, groans in yellow sciences,
and bittersweet vanilla romance, smells divine and tastes sour.
Old friends, new times, under pressure, half-hearted rhymes
of times long ago, sung in tales, melded in dramas, and laughed in gossip
as the politics seep into the innocence of yesterday, no longer pale
naivety in the yellow sun, the face of torment. Don’t speak of exams
pounding answers, fill in the blank, seep in the letter c, a, d, c, c, c—
see here now, can’t be bothered with another essay. Writing is one thing,
but baking, burning my mind with letters no longer comprehendible
is another. A blast of cold air meets the mass exodus of fish—students—
pouring out of school into the wide world, wading, wishing for another
grade, the final scale of excellence. Even after the triumph of the release,
the final test comes in the tasting. Too tart, too sweet, or just right?

Did you enjoy this poem? Were there ever times when the unknown future seemed daunting? Let me know what you think!

Friday, January 1, 2016

40 Writing Prompts

Happy New Year, everybody! Can you believe it’s 2016 already? This year, I’ve decided to collaborate more with my fellow writers. To kick off the New Year, I’ve asked three writers to help me come up with a list of writing prompts for this year. These are meant for inspiration rather than a challenge to write every single one. Please check out the writer websites too and show them your support! The prompts are organized in alphabetical order of last names not in order of importance.

Faith Boggus
  • The smell of lavender overwhelms you as an orange fog moves across the lawn.
  • “Hey. I just got your message”
    “What message?”
    “911. You know where to find me.”
    “I didn’t send that.”
  • A child’s scribbled drawing(s) hold the answer to ending a very long war.
  • “Why is there oatmeal on the ceiling?’
  • A man comes out of an office building holding a dozen roses and a spear.
  • The lights give a bright flash, and the room goes dark while you’re at a party in a strange building.
  • One day you sit down to read your favourite book and see a pattern that you’ve missed before, discovering a secret message.
  • “Have you ever done this before?”
    “Is it safe?”
    “No clue.”
    “Let’s do it.”
  • Your journal gets published without your being aware of it, and you learn that it has entries you haven’t written.
  • “Don’t your eyes always do that?”
    “Twinkle? Shine? Gleam? Reveal my soul?”
  • A young girl reaches into her bag and pulls out a blowtorch.
  • You find a list of names with four already marked off in your child’s handwriting.
  • “Socks are my favourite things.”
    “I thought rocket launchers were.”
    “Can’t a girl have options?”
  • A red light flashes in the darkness of a room. A room you don’t remember entering.
  • One afternoon, everyone who drinks coffee falls asleep and won’t wake up.

Sarah Fluegel
  • It’s scarier inside this house than outside of it, and that’s saying something considering we’re in the middle of the apocalypse.
  • I just love getting the family together for Christmas, the food, the presents, the giant robot fights…
  • I can count the number of times I’ve let someone down on one hand, well from this week anyway.
  • “Turn it back on!” “My database says that air is not mandatory to your species.” “I don’t care, you stupid robot, I said turn it back on!”
  • Werewolves aren’t all that scary they’re just like big giant teddy bears, with sharp teeth, and claws and anger issues. So what I’m saying is that maybe if we just hug the werewolves they won’t hurt us!

Azelyn Klein
“That’s me by the way. Hello.” *waves*
  • Describe the sound of an instrument without using any sound-related words.
  • “News flash for you: blowing stuff up won’t solve the world’s problems”
    “It’s solved mine before.”
  • That idea that’s been bugging you while you’re working on a big project. You know the one. Write a complete, 500-word story about it.
  • “Are you ready for this?”
    “Ready for what?”
    “The end.”
  • Write an intriguing story that ends mid-
  • Pick your least favorite setting. It can be a room or building. Write a story set only in in that place. Eg. someone trapped in an elevator.
  • Retell one of your least favorite stories in a way that appeals to you.
  • She teetered on the edge between being a hopeless romantic and a mystic gypsy.
  • A man travels back in time to fix his past mistakes. At least, that’s what he tells his teenage self.
    • “And no more jumping off buildings.”
      “But I wasn’t—”
      “I don’t want any of your excuses, young lady.”
    • People who travel back in time grow younger by one year for every hundred years they travel back and vice versa for the future. A thirty-year-old would become twenty when traveling to 1016.
    • She was the kind of girl that nobody would give a scholarship to. A few parking tickets, maybe, but never a scholarship.
    • After the war, there wasn’t a soul left who didn’t know a man who faked his own death.
    • A man has something to declare after an international flight. But it’s not something security expects.
    • Leap years are a conspiracy. Three years out of four, the population’s memory is wiped of Feb. 28. Until one man discovers what the world is trying to cover up.

    Alex Micati
    • Describe a scene when a man walks into a bar. Will he meet a priest and a rabbi?
    • Your character wakes up in a place where they had no idea they would end up, next to someone they have no recollection of having met. Describe what happens next.
    • Describe a car crashing into a deer, from the deer’s point of view.
    • Write a scene using gender-neutral pronouns.
    • Write a series of wordplay (unlimited number).

    I hope you’re feeling inspired for this new year! Feel free to use any of the prompts and comment below with prompts of your own or the opening of your story.