As it is Veteran's Day here in the United States, we're spending the weekend recognizing the service and sacrifice thousands of men and women provided throughout our nation's history, allowing us the freedoms we enjoy every day. With that in mind, I thought I would take a few minutes and dive into the Book Roulette, pulling some books that feature members of the military and veterans.
1. The Forgotten Soldier (Pike Logan, 9), by Brad Thor
3. On Leave: A Novel, by Daniel Anselme
4. Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor, by Clinton Romesha
5. SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Scorpion, by Don Mann
6. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien
7. The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers
HEART THROB (HEARTS OF METAL, 7), BY BROOKLYN ANN
Fiction: Romance. Boroughs Publishing Group. 311 pp.
Bassist for heavy metal band, Viciöus, Brand Kife is known for his scowl and inability to form meaningful attachments. When he meets Lexi Adams, the director of the documentary being filmed about Viciöus, Brand wants the smart, sexy woman, but he knows he's not worth having. Staying away from the alluring beauty becomes impossible, but he has secrets he'll never share, not even with Lexi.
HEART FULL OF STARS, BY LINDA GOVIK
Fiction: Romance. Self-published. 261 pp.
An unthinkable scandal drives Darcy Clarke from her jet-set life as a marriage counselor to the rich and famous Beverly Hills. Taking on another identity to escape the hounding media, she accepts a job as a yoga teacher at a remote Scottish castle, where the owner Aidan McAllister counts on her to save the place from going under. Aidan, jarred by life and determined not to get hurt in love, reluctantly warms up to Darcy and starts to believe in a bright future once again. With Darcy's lies building up just as steadily and inevitably as her attraction to Aidan, life in the countryside becomes more and more complex. Then, one day, her past comes back to haunt her.
Sometimes it's hard to approach a familiar book with a new perspective. I have read Jane Austen's Emma over and over since I was in high school. I have seen the movies. It's a classic, both in the canon of English literature and in my own reading experience. And rightfully.
And now, as part of this project (which I took on myself) I tasked myself to read this book with a question in mind: How can this novel better me, and other authors, in our craft? Is there something to learn from Emma and from Austen as a writer? As I am under the firm belief that there is something to learn from every published work and from every author (everyone, really), the answer is undoubtedly "yes." I just had to find out what that less on was. Thinking back on reading this book (I read it quite a while ago), one primary takeaway came to mind.
Austen follows the traditional 3-Act structure in writing Emma, and she does so well. It's most clear when you consider the male counterparts in this story: first, Mr. Elton, then Mr. Churchill, then Mr. Knightley.
What's interesting about the 3-Act structure, that Austen includes is this novel, is that the first act is typically external, the second act is internal, and the third act is the conclusion. Mr. Elton represents the external act, because Emma's goal in this act is to set up a relationship between him and Harriet. Mr. Churchill represents the second act, because she has developed an affection for him and her goal is a relationship for herself. The third act, the conclusion, involves Mr. Knightley. It is here that she is faced with seeing two relationships involving him, one external (between Mr. Knightley and Harriet) and one internal (between Mr. Knightley and herself.)
When it comes to outlining a novel, I believe there is power in simplicity. Often we try to complicate matters, perhaps in an effort to hide the fact that we created an outline and had a clear direction for the book from the beginning. Does this somehow take away from the "artist's journey"? Is there something more authentic about an artist that just sits down and produces his book from thin air?
I don't hide the fact that I advocate for outlining novels. I think, as artists, we can romanticize the writing experience. In reality, there's a lot of strategy involved. And it's okay to show a bit of the strategy when we write, so long as we do it well. I think Austen, among other writers, shows this.
Writing a good story does not have to be complicated. In fact, looking back on the classics, I think we can find plenty of beauty in simplicity. There is no existential crisis in Emma. There is no drama that any one of Austen's readers cannot experience for herself. Rather, there is a deep understanding of love, and of individual pursuit, that we can all relate to. Nothing really happens in this book other than Emma and Harriet navigating the world of dating and relationships. And yet, this book has stood the test of time. Perhaps there is something to learn in that.
But Kate, you might say. If you're reading this as part of a group, there are likely different people writing these statements. And you would be right. However, it is not uncommon to hear both of these statements said by the same person, maybe even in the same conversation.
Let me make one point very clear before I move on: There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these two statements. You want to sell books and grow your audience? Fantastic! You want to write simply as an expression of your own creativity and not worry about what others have to say? That's amazing. But, it's going to be very difficult to do both, especially at the same time.
If you are growing your audience, your primary goal in your writing is to know what your audience wants and then to deliver. Of course, it has to still make sense for your story and characters. But, aside from that, it's simple: supply and demand. Learn the demand, and provide the supply. If it makes you happy and fulfilled, that's a bonus. But if your goal is growth, your primary concern is the happiness of your reader.
However, if you are writing only for yourself, your goal is different. Your first priority isn't to grow your audience or sell your books, because you're not writing for anyone else. If you decide to publish or if you don't -- it doesn't matter. Your purpose in writing is your own creativity and expression.
In each writing project, there is a purpose. In some cases this purpose is very clear to us, perhaps we define it ourselves. But, whether or not we realize it right away, this purpose is so important because without it -- or without an understanding of what it is specific to the project in front of us -- we are more likely to become frustrated with the process and our work runs the risk of feeling disingenuous.
Do you always have to write for your audience or always write for yourself? Certainly not. In fact, I think the purpose could change even from project to project. But believing you are writing for yourself and then wondering why your audience isn't going is trying to look at both sides of a coin at the same time.
Like I mentioned earlier, there is nothing wrong with writing for yourself and there is nothing wrong with writing for your audience. Just be honest with yourself about your goals, and then work hard until those goals are achieved.
BREACH (COLD WAR MAGIC, 1), BY W.L. GOODWATER
Fiction: Fantasy. Ace. 368 pp.
The first novel in a new Cold War fantasy series, where the Berlin Wall is made entirely of magic. When a breach unexpectedly appears in the wall, spies from both sides swarm to the city as World War III threatens to spark.
THEY PROMISED ME THE GUN WASN'T LOADED, BY JAMES ALAN GARDNER
Fiction: Fantasy. Tor. 352 pp.
The eagerly awaited sequel to All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault, by an award-winning author.
JACKAL (JESSICA JAMES, 4), BY KELLY OLIVER
Fiction: Suspense. KAOS Press. 376 pp.
With only an old photograph to go on, Jessica James is sent on a mission by her dying mother to find a washed-up magician called the Mesmerizer. Along the way, Jessica gets way more than she bargained for when she stumbles into a black market organ ring and learns secrets about her mother that will change her own life forever.
THE BERLIN TUNNEL, BY ROGER L. LILES
Fiction: Thriller. Acorn Publishing. 524 pp.
Young American Air Force Captain Robert Kerr arrives in a divided Berlin awash with spies who move freely between the East and the West. His task -- build a TOP SECRET tunnel under the River Spree into East Berlin -- tap into highly classified communications links between civilian and military leaders in Russia and the Warsaw Pact countries. The knowledge gained from this source will help America's leaders to manage an imminent confrontation between the East and West over Berlin, perhaps even help prevent World War III.
FIRSTS: COMING OF AGE STORIES BY PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, BY BELO CIPRIANI
Nonfiction: Memoir. Oleb Books. 172 pp.
Take a step back in times with some of the best writers with disabilities as they recount their first adventure, their first heartbreak, and the first time the unexpected treaded into their life. From body transformations to societal setbacks, to love affairs and family trauma, Firsts collects the most thought-provoking and exciting stories of our time by people with disabilities. Contributors include Nigel David Kelly, Kimberly Gerry-Tucker, Caitlin Hernandez, Andrew Gurza, and David-Elijah Nahmod.
THE HOLLOW OF FEAR (LADY SHERLOCK, 3), BY SHERRY THOMAS
Fiction: Mystery. Berkley. 336 pp.
Charlotte Holmes, Lady Sherlock, returns in the Victorian-set mystery series from the USA Today bestselling author of A Conspiracy in Belgravia and A Study in Scarlet Women, an NPR Best Book of 2016.
IMPOSSIBLE OWLS, BY BRIAN PHILLIPS
Nonfiction: Essays. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 352 pp.
A globe-spanning, ambitious book of essays from one of the most enthralling storytellers in narrative nonfiction.
IN THE MOOD FUR LOVE, BY EVE LANGLAIS, MILLY TAIDEN, KATE BAXTER
Fiction: Romance. St. Martin's Griffin. 400 pp.
Three hot stories about three sexy shifters from a trio of today's hottest paranormal romance authors, headlined by bestselling authors Eve Langlais and Milly Taiden.
PRIEST OF BONES (WAR FOR THE ROSE THRONE, 1), BY PETER MCLEAN
Fiction: Fantasy. Ace. 352 pp.
"The first in an unmissable series, Priest of Bones is a fresh and compelling take on grimdark fantasy. Mashing together soldiers, gangsters, magic and war into a heady mix that is a hulking big brother to the Lies of Lock Lamora." - Anna Stephens, author of Godblind
TINY PIECES, BY STEPHANIE HENRY
Fiction: Romance. Self-published. 161 pp.
When Cole shows up in Aria's hometown a decade after being gone, her whole world changes. She thought she had moved on, bu the past has a way of taking hold of her again and dragging her back into the depths of first love and first heartbreak.
UNDER MY SKIN, BY LISA UNGER
Fiction: Thriller. Park Row. 368 pp.
Lisa Unger is a major bestselling and award winning thriller author whose books have been published in over twenty countries worldwide and are perfect for fans of Lisa Gardner and Karin Slaughter. She makes her Park Row debut with a riveting thriller about a woman on the hunt for her husband's killer.
WHEN THE MEN WERE GONE, BY MARJORIE HERRERA LEWIS
Fiction: Historical. William Morrow Paperbacks. 240 pp.
In Marjorie Herrera Lewis's debut novel -- the inspiring true story of high school teacher Tylene Wilson -- a woman who surprises everyone as she breaks with tradition to become the first high school football coach in Texas, comes to life.
THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL, BY HESTER FOX
Fiction: Historical. Graydon House. 368 pp.
For fans of Simone St. James and Ellen Wiseman's What We Left Behind comes an addictive historical debut about strange power, fierce love, family secrets, and how the past haunts us in ways that demand to be seen.
HELL IS THE TIE THAT BINDS (MAGICAL FORTRESS, 3.5), BY HOPE DANIELS AND ALICIA DOWN
Fiction: Romance. Self-published. 132 pp.
Zoey cannot forgive Pack Alpha Ryan for a wrong that hits too close to home. They've kept secrets from one another, but it hasn't kept Zoey from wanting Ryan with the same intensity as day one. The question is, does Ryan sill want her.
THROW THE KEY, BY CHRISTINE BARFKNECHT
Fiction: Suspense. Self-published. 275 pp.
Jenna Bradley knows she needs to be afraid, she just doesn't know what she should be afraid of. An evening phone call from her husband, Eric, rattles her to her core. "I'm coming to get you and the kids. We have to go away for a while."
Three hot stories about three sexy shifters from a trio of today's hottest paranormal romance authors, headlined by bestselling authors Eve Langlais and Milly Taiden!
Bearing His Name
Meeting his mate should have been cause for celebration. There's just one teeny tiny problem. Jade thinks Ark might have impregnated her sister. He didn't, but convincing Jade is going to take a bit of honey.
Owned by the Lion
Keir's been told to stop playing the field and settle down--difficult advice for a hard and hot man with a lion's heart to follow. But his sights have always been set on Ally. She's his mate, plain and simple. With her sweet and delicious curves, she's nothing but sugar and trouble all rolled into one. But he's known her and sparred with her for years. She's his best friend's little sister, and it's going to take a whole new level of convincing that he's the mate for her.
No Need Fur Love
Moving with his pack to the tiny town of Stanley, Idaho has Owen Courtney a little on edge. With literally no women in sight, Owen will be lucky to find a date, let alone his true mate. But you know the saying about a werewolf walking into a bar ... Gorgeous wood nymph Maria Oliver is on a mission: Find a suitable male to get her good 'n pregnant and provide her with an heir. But when Mia decides to pick up a gorgeous and oh-so-willing werewolf at the bar, she realizes she might be in over her heard ...
"What an emotional, fascinating and marvelous ride. The authors did a magnificent job, I'll [be] looking forward to more from this trio. 5 Golden Stars!" - Zetter, Amazon Reviewer (5/5 stars)
"First story was great fun, second was OK -- kind of confusing -- third was AMAZING! My fave shifter romance!" - Angie, Amazon reviewer (4/5 stars)
"Overall, a pleasurable collection of stories. I look forward to the next book. Each author has something different about their style and as individual stories they each bring something to the book that makes it enjoyable throughout." - Hannah Pilar, Amazon reviewer (4/5 stars)
Kate Baxter is a die-hard romantic with a thing for Shakespeare. She lives in the great northwest where she hides away to write about all things fanged, furry, and undead.
Eve Langlais is a Canadian author who loves to write hot romance, usually with hot shifters, cyborgs or aliens. She loves to write, and while she doesn't always know what her mind is going to come up with next, it will be fun, probably humorous and most of all romantic, because she loves a happily ever after.
Milly Taiden loves to write sexy stories featuring fun, sassy heroines with curves and growly alpha males with fur. She lives in Florida with her husband, boys, and fur babies.
If you've ever watched a romantic comedy from the '90s, you'll know what I mean when I refer to the "makeover montage." It's the part of the movie where the Leading Lady (usually still frumpy at this point) gets a makeover by her Best Friend (or Popular Girl) in order to attract the attention of the guy she's had a crush on since the Beginning of Time. This is the the first thing that came to my mind when I started to think about the Fun and Games section of your book, except I know that you can do it better.
Fun and Games is typically a part of the B Story, although it could be part of the A Story as well. But it's tone is undeniably lighthearted. It's the awkward first date of the romance novel; it's the game of pool at the bar after a long day on the case in a thriller novel (perhaps with a romantic interest, if it's part of the B Story). It's the arena of a unique sport in a fantasy novel.
The purpose of the Fun and Games, somewhat like the B Story, is to break up the potential tension in the story. But while the B Story can be used to insert a little lighthearted tone, the Fun and Games does add a bit of relief. It lets your character and your reader breathe within the story. It's not meant to distract from the intensity, but rather to ease it a bit for a period of time.
However, there can be a few concerns with the Fun and Games section. Primarily, it's really important to stay within the character's boundaries. Characters develop according to their qualities and circumstances, and no two characters develop exactly alike. Just as not all characters respond to conflict in the same way, not all characters experience fun in the same way. If your character is introverted, he or she is probably not going to party it up at a club in the Fun and Games section. Similarly, laughter-filled one-on-one coffee date probably isn't going to brighten the spirits of a sociable character.
But also, it's important not to get distracted as a writer. Fun and Games is meant to be a reprieve from the story, not a segue into a new story line. I've fallen into this trap before -- you get on a tangent and you just keep going. It's one reason I strongly advocate for outlining, rather than just sitting down to start writing. It's easy to get distracted from the path you're headed down, and diverting with contrasting scenes can derail your project completely if you're not careful.
What are some ways your character can "let loose" a little? Try not to be cliché here, but find authentic outlets that suit your character and your plot arc. How does this scene align with your overall story direction? How could it possibly get out of control?
Make the B Story parallel to the A Story.
Your primary character should be the same in the A Story and the B Story. As I mentioned in a previous post, changing to the villain's perspective isn't a B Story, it's still part of the A Story.
Additionally, the B Story should be relevant to the A Story. It allows the reader to see a new side to your character, but it's not the opportunity for the author to write two completely different stories in one book. The A Story and the B story should be sisters -- not identical, but clearly related.
If you are creating a story with different timelines, it is important to remember that your B Story will likely follow the same timeline as your A Story. At the very least, incorporating the B Story doesn't necessarily mean that you have to change timelines. The B Story isn't as extensive as the A Story, and may not even take place in multiple timelines (the way that the A Story might). Rather, it may likely use the timeline that most of the A Story uses as well.
Define the purpose an goals for the B Story.
As with the A Story (which we covered at the beginning of the Story Map series), you want to define the purpose and goals for the B Story. As the author, what do you want the reader to learn about your character through this story? But also, does your character have any specific goals in the B Story? What are they and what obstacles may stand in the way of achieving these goals?
A good example of this is in Matthew Quick's Silver Linings Playbook. In this book the A Story is Pat's unlikely relationship with Tiffany, and how he uses this friendship-of-sorts to work through his own demons and find closure in his failed marriage. The B Story is the dance competition. There is a definite goal in the dance competition -- to earn a certain score. How Quick incorporates these two stories together is seamless, yet effective.
Now, talk to me about your own story. How do you plan on incorporating the B Story? What will it reveal about your characters that will help create depth in their development? How will you improve the reader's experience by including this component into your novel?
I didn't really like the book. I found the repetition trite while reading through it, and the tone and volume of the writing too loud too often. There was no flow through the book, no action-based application for someone looking at how to better themselves. There was no build on previous days' application, no development throughout the year. I'm not denying this worked for Ms. Pirtle, and I'm very glad that it did work for her and has worked for some others. But if I've learned anything about happiness I've learned this: Happiness is not always a "high for life." At times it's quiet contentedness; at times it's fond remembrance; at times it's forward anticipation. Pirtle doesn't seem to address any of these other characteristics of happiness in her book. I applaud her technique of writing a bit each day as she works through her own personal development toward happiness, but once the book was written I feel she should have spent more time working with the content to develop a cohesive book rather than a collection of musings.
ABOUT JACQUELINE PIRTLE
Jacqueline Pirtle, a.k.a FreakyHealer, has been leading life-changing workshops, talks, and private sessions since 2006. Her passion for "sprinkling happiness" and being "high on life" shines through in all of her work as an energy healer and mindfulness teacher. She was born in Switzerland, but has lived everywhere. She now makes her home in the United States with her wonderful husband, amazing kid, and sweet cats, and can often be found having a little chat with a falling leaf, or indulging in a cupcake at her favorite bakery.
KEEP IN TOUCH
2017 Character Name Guide
The First Lines club is a Tumblr blog focusing on the beginning sentences of the books we love and love to hate.
Book Swag is a free weekly email that helps you find the best ebooks from new, established and indie authors. Free for the authors, exciting for the reader. Find your next great read.
THE BOOK ROULETTE
BY LARRY MCMURTRY