You’ve Got Five Pages, #Horse by #GeraldineBrooks, To Tell Me You’re Good.

Hello, amazing fellow creatives! Here’s to more fun perusing the library’s new releases to see what strikes our fancy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve retitled Story Cuppings to better fit the premise of the podcast.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST 50 PAGES

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

Horse: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks.

What will you, fellow creative, learn in the first five pages? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

The first chapter of Horse by Geraldine Brooks leaves me with…mixed feelings. On a technical level–scene execution, prose, and such–Brooks is stellar. The very word choices the protagonist makes in those opening pages say a lot about the protagonist’s nature; in fact, some of the word choices made me feel like I lack the intellect to fully appreciate the language utilized here. Still, the memories the protagonist recalls of family bereavement while interacting with a racist neighbor also experiencing grief speaks volumes as to the power of upbringing and culture in our lives. I just wish it was clearer as to where this story is intending to go. I don’t want it broadcast and/or spoonfed to me, but I do need *something.* Brooks’ last line of the chapter does promise there will be a *something* when Theo discovers “the horse” in the neighbor’s discarded items on the street. But when I see Chapter 2 is not going to continue with this momentum but will instead change over to a new protagonist with a new point of view, I worry that we’ll be stopping and starting several times before the plot can truly find its groove. I am likely assuming too much here, but as a picky reader, I am just not a fan of hopping among the characters, especially when we’ve barely gotten to know even one of them.

As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. Libraries Rock!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Author #Interview: Let’s Chat with #IndieAuthor @cs_ratliff!

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Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’m thrilled to continue sharing some lovely indie authors I’ve met in our community. This month, please welcome the thunderously fantastic C.S. Ratliff!

Let’s begin with your adventures as a reader. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I think I’ve always known language had power as a fan of history. Respectively, I believe written and spoken languages have their own power in different ways.

Oh yes, every language has a sense of beauty that makes it unique compared to others. Even when a story is transformed, that new adaptation of an old tale can hold something special. (Seamus Heaney’s telling of Beowulf comes to mind.) Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

I think with each book I read, my understanding of literature and fiction in general changes. There are these “rules” of writing that seem to change drastically between different authors. It has opened my eyes to what’s possible and changed my prose certainly.

How about your favorite under-appreciated novel? I’m always looking for reading recommendations. 🙂

I think the entire Embers of Illenial series by Michael G Manning is amazing and not talked about nearly enough.

Awesome, thank you! Have you been venturing out on any other literary pilgrimages?

I have always loved fantasy but over the past couple years I wanted to do my toes into other genres. I’ve participated in fictional blogs, which also helped me with scene management and short stories. I also recently wrote a sci-fi novella for an anthology submission.

Kudos to you for completing a such a project! I’ve often pondered submitting for an anthology, as they seem like a lovely opportunity for connecting with other writers as well as reaching new readers. What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

I think the issue with royalties and the stigma that authors make lots of money is unethical and profoundly wrong on different levels. For authors to pour their heart into these original stories, and have little to nothing to show, isn’t the best feeling.

Oof, do I know that feeling, too. Writing fantasy for any age is no easy undertaking, to be sure. When it comes to the fantasy genre, we writers are often tempted to explain every little detail of the world and its workings. If we explain too little, readers may grow confused and frustrated with our story. If we explain too much, we lose the story’s pacing—and, once again, our readers. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

I learned early on about info dumps. I love creating new worlds but the way I go about revealing anything is through characters, whether it’s through dialogue or discovery. In doing this, I don’t throw too much at once. I think that is the key. The story and characters’ journeys need to take precedence. So if the world is revealed subtly, I believe it feels more tangible in comparison to dumping too much.

Yes, Sir, exactly that! Nothing irritates me as a reader like the info dump, especially when it happens before the story. Of course, apart from characters’ learning, you give readers a little visual boost through your maps. Your skills are most impressive! 🙂

Do you always draw your world before you write it, or does the visual art come after the written word? I’d love to hear more about your process.

Thank you! I’ve only recently gotten into map making. With each new map, I get a little better. With my newest book I’m writing, I did make the map first, but as I’ve written about 65,000 words, I have remade it five times. And it will probably change as the world grows until I’m finished with the book. With that said, I created a map for my first series, but only after writing it.

Do you do any other kinds of research before beginning a book?

My research, both in depth and time, varies with each book or series. For my first series, I researched a little in terms of lightning; the MC has control over that power. I didn’t research much going into my new dragon mage series. I have another project, a weird west series, that I’ve invested a significant amount of time researching as it’s set in the late 1800s western America.

I bet other threads of your life have been woven into your writing, too. For instance, on your author’s site, you mention you’ve undergone martial arts training. That’s so cool! My brothers both have black belts in Tae Kwon Do, so I just have to ask what form you’ve studied and if that form has influenced your fiction in any way.

That is awesome! I trained in Shorei Goju Ryu karate for about a decade total. Martial arts and The military have definitely influenced my action scenes. I find many people struggle with action, but I find choreography and descriptions both easy and fun. It seems to be a positive point in my reviews thus far, so that pleases me to know!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There are a few secrets, mostly parallel arcs to my own life, that I think only a handful of people would ever put together as a mirror of my experiences.

Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me here! Let’s close things out with your first book, Shadow and Lightning. What inspired this story, and where can we find it?

Shadow and Lightning is a coming-of-age story about a boy who becomes endowed with an ancient elemental power after spending his life believing the secret that magic is a myth. It had many themes from adventure and romance, to war and violence. There is a bit of mystery, political intrigue and betrayal. Though it follows a teen, the themes fall into adult much more. It’s a bit gritty and darker especially as the series progresses. It is available on Amazon!

~STAY TUNED!~

‘Tis time to return to the garden….for murder and mayhem! Mwa ha ha ha ha!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!