Saturday, April 30, 2011

Useful Suggestions for Writing a Book Proposal

How to Write a Book Proposal is aimed at authors of non-fiction books, but is has good advice for fiction writers as well. Non-fiction books usually sell on the strength of a proposal and the advice is excellent. Fiction books usually sell on the basis of the completed manuscript. However, the advice on internet marketing and promotion is appropriate for either type of book.

I found the section on choosing a title to be particularly interesting. Often authors forget what a great selling tool the title is. Larsen makes this point clearly and offers numerous, often humorous, suggestions. In fact, I found all Larsen's marketing suggestions interesting and in many cases vital. Everyone who expects to write a book must find a way to get readers and decide how much time to spend on marketing as opposed to writing new material. The days of publishers marketing all books to the full are gone. Authors need to be entrepreneurs as well as creators.

I recommend this book for anyone thinking about publishing either a non-fiction book, for which it is most useful, or a fiction book, for the information on marketing and use of the internet. My suggestion is to use the material that makes sense for your project, read the rest and enjoy the writer's humor.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Mesmerizing Exploration of a Deteriorating Mind - Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Dr. Jennifer White is sixty-four-years-old, suffering from Alzheimer's and a person of interest in the death of her best friend, Amanda. Her days are filled with a reality that blurs and fades and sometimes is intensely real. The police suspect Dr. White is involved in Amanda's murder. She's an orthopedic surgeon and four of Amanda's fingers have been removed with surgical precision. But is someone with advanced dementia capable of committing a skillful murder without being detected?

The story is told through Dr. White's eyes. It's eerie to be inside the head of someone whose reality changes from day to day. We meet her children, her caregiver, and through the visions she experiences, her husband, parents and Amanda herself. As the disease progresses, we are drawn more and more into the complex, disturbing world inhabited by Dr. White.

One police officer needs to find the truth. She continues to question Dr. White after all the others have given up, and gradually, she pieces together most of the truth. While it gives closure to the reader and the police officer. It's too late to help Dr. White. Her world is dissolving toward the end.

I enjoyed this book although it was an eerie sensation to be so much in the head of someone with a distorted vision reality. I thought the author did an excellent job describing the deteriorating world of an Alzheimer's patient.

Although the murder mystery kept me turning pages, the investigation by the police officers didn't ring true. Perhaps this was because it was being told through a distorted vision. Still, it was a necessary part of the novel. Without some real life clues to follow the novel would have become too convoluted in the bizarre world of Dr. White's deteriorating brain. Well worth the read.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Useful Story Planning Tools

Story Engineering presents six tools that can help structure your story: concept, character, theme, structure, scene execution and writing voice. If you use these concepts, you can structure a story that flows. Knowing where to put major scenes can, by itself, give your story momentum.

Larry Brooks is very much in favor of structure. He firmly believes this is the way to plan your novel, and I agree with him. Too many writers do wander around looking for their story while writing hundreds of pages. Where I differ with him is in his contention that knowing and using these competencies will get you published. If you don't you won't get there. Having read hundreds of novels, I can see that structure is important, but there are a great many published novels that, in my opinion, fail. Structure may be there, but they're dull, characterization is poor, and the subject matter uninteresting.

I felt that his extensive use of Dan Brown's “The Da Vinci Code” was unfortunate. I agree that Brown follows the recommended structure, but without the enticing clues and mysterious background, I don't think the book works well. Perhaps this is because I hate chase scenes with no character development. So while I enjoyed “Story Engineering,” I have some reservations about how useful structure is if you don't have excellent content and characterization.

I also felt that he short-changed organic writers. Outlining, or preparing a beat sheet is a good idea, but some people do have an intrinsic feel for story and don't do as well preparing everything up front. I think this approach has many valid suggestions for improving craft, but I also think there are other important factors. My suggestion is read the book and take what you can use. It's an experience that will make you think.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Delightful Mystery

Nick, a forensic entomologist otherwise known as the Bug Man, is getting married. At least he thinks he is, but he has some reservations. Is he really ready for marriage, or is it just the wedding he dreads? Three days before the wedding, he sets out to find the murderer of his old friend Pete Bondreau. His fiancee is not happy, putting it mildly, about the idea. Being Nick, he gets completely wrapped up in the mystery, but what about his fiancee and the wedding on Saturday?

Nick is a delightful arrogant, egotistical, genius. His dialog sparkles with all the things you'd love to say, but wouldn't dare to the people who annoy you. The plot is suspenseful; the supporting characters well drawn. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. It's a quick read, perfect for a day at the beach or curled up on the couch on a rainy afternoon.

I heartily recommend this book. In fact, I will have to check out the other books in the series. In addition to the plot twists there is a lot of interesting information about insects, particularly those found at a crime scene. Altogether a delightful experience.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Make the Most of Your Talent

Beyond Talent is a prescription for how to make the most of your talent. Some exceptionally talented people never move beyond mediocrity, or burn out early. Others with fewer gifts succeed wildly. The answer lies in the attributes the individual uses to support their talent. Some of these include: belief, initiative, focus, practice and perseverance. Everyone who wants to be a leader, or to become a success in their field should read this book and think about these attributes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author's style. His makes his points clearly and backs them up with anecdotes about famous and not so famous people. The small stories make it easy to remember the points he's making and give clues about how to use these truths to enhance your own life. If you want to make the most of whatever talents you have, I strongly suggest this book is required reading.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mediocre Historical Novel

Fifteen-year-old Ann Miller reluctantly turns down a marriage proposal from her romantic suitor because she's too young. She rues the decision, particularly when he takes up with another girl, but when Ann accompanies her father to Pittsburgh where he must complete a saddle commission, the world opens. Not one, but two eligible suitors appear.

On the positive side. I like the historical background for the novel. The author has based her characters on real people and has tried to proved an authentic historical backdrop. The plot moves swiftly with numerous twists which keep the reader turning the page. All these things make the novel quite interesting.

On the negative side, the characters, although based on historical people, are stereotypical. Ann is unimpressive as the naive heroine. However, Will, one of her potential suitors, is more true to life, particularly in the trials he endures. The book had many interesting plot twists, but, I felt, the ending was unsatisfactory. Although all the bad characters were punished, the mechanism seemed to be a device to end the novel than a demonstration of the characters' growth.

From a technical perspective, the writing was stilted. I can appreciate that the author was trying to convey a manner of speech in the time period, but that doesn't excuse the same sort of wooden writing for the descriptions. Christian fiction should be as least as well written as more generally popular romances.

I reviewed the book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

God's Promises for the American Patriot by Richard Lee and Jack Countryman

Truths expressed in the Bible have guided many of our greatest Presidents. John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Regan, Benjamin Harrison, and Harry S. Truman gave testament to the importance of the Bible for them and for our country. One of my favorite sections of this book is the series of quotes from these men.

The book features historical events and documents important in American history coupled with appropriate Bible verses. I believe that anyone reading the two together will realize how the Bible formed the foundation of our country and guided the actions of many people. From the Declaration of Independence to the move westward, the Bible traveled with the people giving them courage and inspiration.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a passions for America. I believe it would make an excellent devotional, or a book for discussion in a small group setting.

I review this book as part of the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Outstanding Wake Up Call

Barack Obama was swept into office on a tide of dissatisfaction, but the electorate didn't really know who this man was. McCullough presents a clear picture of what Obama promised and how his promises fell short. This book covers four areas, economics, national insecurity, erosion of rights and accountability to Caesar. In each area, McCullough presents what Obama promised and how those promises have been perverted.

Everyone should read this book. If you're a voter, it's especially important. Americans are truly a wonderful people. We try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, I don't think we believe in evil. McCullough makes if very clear that while Obama was saying one thing, he was thinking something completely different. He may believe in “Hope and Change,” but his ideas of what constitutes change are very different from those of the majority of Americans. He wants to remake our wonderful country into what he wants and this is not always for the good of Americans. I fear he views himself as a citizen of the world, rather than a citizen of America, and this is not good news for our survival. As McCullough points out. The President is the employee of “We the People.” When he forgets that he becomes a danger to our values.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

I reviewed the book as part of Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heart of Ice by Lis Wiehl

The Triple Threat Club is back. Nicole, Allison and Cassidy face a chilling murderer. Elizabeth is a sociopath. Her lies are so believable she almost becomes Cassidy's best friend. She manipulates the people around her orchestrating a series of apparently unrelated crimes. Arson, is followed by theft, fraud and eventually murder. The friends try to piece together the seemingly random crimes at the same time they're dealing with their own family and health problems.

I enjoyed the book. The suspense is well done. As Elizabeth pulls more people in her web, you want to keep reading to find out how far she can go. However, when I stopped reading and thought about the characters, I found the manipulation rather unbelievable. The characters who committed the crimes seemed far to ready to follow Elizabeth's lead. Perhaps sociopaths are this successful in manipulating people, but it seemed facile.

The main characters, Nicole, Allison, and Cassidy, are delightful They come across as very real as they struggle with their jobs as well as their personal problems. I find it very realistic that while Allison has a deep faith, Cassidy and particularly Nicole struggle with what they believe. I recommend this book for anyone looking for a satisfying read.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson as part of the Book Sneeze program.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

An Unusual Spiritual Journey

Beyond Rain of Gold opens with the death of the author's father. Was this man a monster or a king? Vilasenor begins a quest to find out. However, the book rapidly becomes an autobiography. We learn more about Vilasensor than his father, although his father does, as promised, visit him from the other side.

I enjoyed the author's adventures in the publishing world. This section is a must read for authors and for those wanting to become writers. Whether you agree with Vilasenor or not, he cared enough about his book to go to extreme lengths to keep it pure. I admire that.

Other sections of the book were not so enjoyable. I found the consistent use of capital letters to express extreme emotion annoying. I thought the device was overused and took away from the narrative. The story rambled. In the section on his publishing experiences, it shifts back and forth from past to present, and while not terribly difficult to follow, it is a distraction.

The end of the book, where the author meets his spirit guides, is very repetitive. I got bored with all the emotion and having the same sort of things happen over and over. I believe this would have been a stronger book, if it had received more editing.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.