You’ve Got Five Pages, #TheLioness by Chris Bohjalian, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

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.

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

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

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian

The opening pages of The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian are…well hang on. The single page of prologue is not dense. In fact, the prologue feels a little like a cheat. “We went on a safari and almost everyone died! Who died and who didn’t? You can’t know yet!” So of course we have to read on to find out what they’re talking about. Only of course the first chapter isn’t starting off with such a tense moment; in fact, we start the chapter with watching giraffes.

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

That is not to say the first chapter is without tension, however. I will give Bohjalian all the props for having very layered prose, hinting multiple sources of tension on a honeymoon where tension between newlyweds should be the last thing anyone wants to see. Nothing is stated, but sure as hell is implied, and this kind of setup cues the reader that personal conflicts will boil over in the coming chapters. Because the hints are wrapped up in exposition about characters and interactions from a previous evening, the first chapter feels very dense and motionless, which doesn’t seem fair. I’ve no suggestions for how else to do this, for as a writer, I deeply respect the layered prose of meaning between the lines. I just wish a bit more action could have broken up the density of that first chapter so a cheat of a prologue wouldn’t have to be used at all.

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!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #RedWarning by Matthew Quirk, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

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.

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

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

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

Red Warning by Matthew Quirk

The first chapter of Red Warning by Matthew Quirk was a most unique experience. The book starts with one of the biggest tropes one can have with a thriller. (“How do you know we can trust him?” “I don’t.” Dunh dunh DUNH!) This set me giggling which, perhaps, isn’t how one typically reads a thriller.

How will you, fellow creative, respond to the first five pages? Let’s find out!

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

As I read on, however, I felt like I was reading something from a Cannon 1980s schlocky action film, and that quickly warmed my heart to this story. The dialogue and action all sound perfect for a B film, so if you are a fan of the older, low-budget spy films, this may be just the book for you!

As a writer, though, I struggled with one major aspect of this chapter. In the first few pages of the story, we’re told the main protagonist spy is looking for another spy who also kills bankers and intelligence sources. The protagonist isn’t *supposed* to do anything, so he’s done playing by the rules (dunh dunh DUNH!) and has gone rogue to find the baddie.

This is all said in the first three pages.

Considering the motivation for the protagonist to go rogue is the murder spree, I find it odd we as readers don’t get to see the protagonist affected by the murder spree or see him make the decision to go rogue. It’s as if the story is starting slightly *after* the real beginning, and because we still need that context, the information is thrown at us in exposition. This just makes those murders feel less important than I’m sure they are.

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!

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!

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!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #Verity by Colleen Hoover, 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:

Verity by Colleen Hoover

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.

I have to be honest–the opening pages of Verity by Collleen Hoover did not move me to keep reading. Hoover’s prose style cuts like a knife, and her word choices say a lot with a little. But there’s something about the intense message about Manhattan’s lack of humanity mixed with a protagonist who *desires* to lose her humanity and be “as hard as the concrete” beneath her feet that makes it very difficult for me to relate to this protagonist as a reader, especially when considering the bloody death the protagonist witnesses in the first five pages. The protagonist is determined to *not* connect and *not* empathize. This approach certainly gives the writer opportunity to build layers that can be peeled away as the story progresses, but a reader has to be invested to see that happen first.

This is just my reaction as a picky reader, though. Perhaps you’ll feel differently about this book–or whatever book I select next from the library’s New Release shelf.

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!

#KidWriter Blondie Returns with Chapter 3 of The Elementals! #DragonStories #ProudMom

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my daughter Blondie’s announcement that she’s continued her story. Well, we can’t put off sharing that, can we? 🙂

Forward: Deepest apologies for taking so long!! Procrastination is an ugly thing, folks. Here are my other chapters in case you forgot them.

Click here for Chapter 1.

Click here for Chapter 2.

But enough talk.

Without further ado, here’s Chapter 3 of The Elementals!

Blondie the Dragon Master

“The Forest Shard?” Comettail gasped. “Yes.” Raven said ominously, “I have been looking for the Forest Temple for weeks now.”

She stood tall and spread her silver wings, looking proud with herself. “I found it, but if it wasn’t for these vines I would have had it already!” Raven glared at the ashes. “Can you lead us to it so we can fulfill the prophecy?” Rainbow pleaded hopefully. Inferno scowled at her. “Ah, so you’re the new Elementals!” Raven beamed, “All the more helpful!” Boulder stared, suspicious.

“How do the Forest Dragons LIVE in this stuff?!” Inferno said, pushing away yet ANOTHER annoying branch. “That ‘stuff’ is called TREES.” Rainbow huffed. “You could just burn all the branches off. Then it wouldn’t be SO ANNOYING.” Comettail looked at Inferno, horrified. “You can’t do THAT.” he shuddered. “Why not?” Inferno asked, pushing through more underbrush. “That’s how the CURSED FOREST FORMED.” Comettail whispered.

“That’s just old Dragonlore, Comettail. None of it is true.” Boulder stated, trotting behind them. “The Elementals were Dragonlore too, Boulder,” Comettail said, serious, “There’s some truth in every legend.”

“At last!” Raven exclaimed, pushing through a bush after several hours of trekking. “Wow.” Hurricane breathed. There, in a clearing, stood a large, stone, moss-covered temple, embedded deep inside the biggest tree any of them had ever seen. Rainbow gasped as the sun hit her vibrant scales. “It’s beautiful!” she squealed. Raven grinned, Pitch cawing beside her. “Let’s find out what’s inside, eh?” Raven smiled. “Yes yes YES!!” Rainbow shouted enthusiastically. “No, Rainbow!” Comettail argued, “Not yet! We have to properly-” “Here we gooooooo!” Raven yelled as she sped into the huge structure. “Wait for meeeee!!” Rainbow yelped as she ran in after her. “RAINBOW! WAIT!” Hurricane yelled after them. But they were long gone.

“C’mon, guys. Let’s make sure those two don’t kill themselves.” Hurricane sighed as she turned toward the others. But only Comettail stood there, wide eyed and shivering. “Comettail, WHERE ARE THE OTHERS?!” she panicked, whirling around. Comettail only stared at her. “Gone,” He whimpered. “Where, Comettail? WHERE?!?!” Hurricane said, frantically shaking him as if the answers would come flying out. “Taken by Shadows.” He whispered. He staggered out of Hurricane’s grip and fainted dead away.

TO BE CONTINUED………….

Make sure to stay tuned for Chapter 4 later in summer! I promise not to wait as long as I did. Stay awesome everybody!!!

-Blondie the Dragon Rider, Tamer, Trainer, ETC……

Many thanks, my lovely girl! Yes, please stay tuned. We’ve some fiction to critique, some authors to meet, and some flowers to pluck.

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

You’ve Got Five Pages, #TheCartographers by Peng Shepherd, 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.

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

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

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

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.

I wasn’t expecting yet another story’s opener to be a boss and disgruntled protagonist, but here we are. The first chapter of The Cartographers  by Peng Shepherd is a slow burn, one that uses a lot of exposition to establish the protagonist’s knowledge of maps. The opening lines about a famous, ancient map are indeed informative, if nothing else than to prepare us for THE map (as noted on the dust jacket) that sets the story in motion later on. While the interaction between boss and protagonist Nell feels a little cliche’, it does allow Nell to think on what “disgraced” her from her more prestigious job, and that intrigue hooks us as readers to desire more about this curious cartographer and whether or not she will ever return to a place of honor in her family or profession.

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!

You’ve Got Five Pages, The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, 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.

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

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

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

I admit that I was wary of this book at first, for while I dug its cover design, I saw it took place in 2020 just before lockdown. Nope! I thought. I want something to escape reality with, not be further enmeshed in it. When I continued to read the blurb and realized interdimensional animals are involved, I decided to risk the covid context to find out more.

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

Okay, I laughed multiple times while reading aloud the opening pages of The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, and I’m not sorry! No, we’ve not met any Kaiju in the first chapter, but we have met our protagonist Jamie, who sees his confidence and place in life shattered when his boss sacks him. The scene is masterfully done, with touches in setting and word choice speaking a lot to the character Jamie as well as his boss. By utilizing a relatable situation for the opening scene, Scalzi has more freedom to mess around with characterization, so we get a lot about Jaime’s character in a brief amount of time. By the end of those five pages, we can understand why such a person has nothing to lose and would therefore take a risk with an old friend…and meet creatures from another dimension in the process.

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!

You’ve Got Five Pages, Wayward by #BlakeCrouch, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

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.

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

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

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

Wayward by Black Crouch

So in my podcast I note the peculiarity of the publication and how it’s tied to Amazon publishing. It looks like a new edition of this book is coming out later this year through Ballantine, so I wonder if Blake Crouch started with self-publishing and has since gone traditional. Either way, good for him! Still wonder how my library got a hold of the old edition, though…

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

Honestly, this was a curious find. It’s plain to see we’re not starting with the regular protagonist, but that outsider perspective does provide a unique look at the setting for this trilogy. For all the quaint beauty of this small town, there is a very real, very lethal menace in all the razor wire and posted snipers. To begin the story with one of those snipers immediately establishes the high stakes involved with surviving this mystery. We may be entering this story arc in the middle (it is Book 2, after all), but the first chapter does its job in establishing some major ground rules for a reader uncertain of the road ahead. We have action, we have monsters, and we have an unsuspecting populace.

Sounds like a recipe for mischievous disaster to me!

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!

You Have Five Pages to Tell Me It’s Good: #TheShatteredSkies by John Birmingham. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

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.

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

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

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Shattered Skies by John Birmingham

We have a unique situation here. This is a new release in Science Fiction, but it’s also the second book of a trilogy, which means a lot of establishment of character, conflict, and setting have already been accomplished. So, we’ve got to seriously temper our expectations when it comes to worldbuilding and character development, for much of that could be present in the first book, The Cruel Stars.

What will you, fellow creatives, make of these first five pages? Let’s find out!

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

The conflicts and worldbuilding alluded to by the first chapter’s primary character sound epic in their scope, and the character’s voice certainly fits a military mind. I just wish this character could have interacted with someone instead of only inwardly reflecting on all the epic conflicts and political intrigue. Let the man talk to a subordinate officer or some other henchman while waiting to land on a planet! You know me–I’m a sucker for a beginning with some action. 🙂

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!