May Reads – 2017

I ended up reading 7 books this month – technically 8, but one book I’m not counting because it was a re-read I did of a book I wrote, so I can’t exactly review it lol.


NON-FICTION

Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything (Hans Ulrich Obrist)

This oversize book was a companion to Coupland’s show at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It contains a collection of essays and interviews about the artist and his work. There is also a large collection of photos of much of the collection. I am much more familiar with Coupland’s work as a writer, and have only seen a small amount of his artwork (mostly public art pieces) so it was interesting to get a view of a show I missed. His Canadian-centred art in particular speaks to me – it truly is a secret handshake, and there is a lot of familiarity and nostalgia in the images that wouldn’t be felt by non-Canadians. Overall the book is a great overview of work – but if you’re like me and took it out of the library, be warned it’s big and heavy lol.

Literary Listography: My Reading Life in Lists (Lisa Nola)

This book is a cool collection of list prompts. You can fill it out and get a great overview of your favourite characters, books, genres and authors. It’s not a long read since it is mostly list headings, but it also includes some cool illustrations of book examples. My bestie gave me this, and I love filling out the lists, and going back to add a new book when I read something good. There’s a lot of lists, and many that I never would’ve thought of myself. It reminds me a bit of an offline Goodreads, which is fun. I recommend this a lot if you love reading and are a listaholic like me.

Hole in the Wall Gang (Frank Cullotta)

This book is in Frank’s own words, about his life – from his early days as a criminal in Chicago, to the Las Vegas days with Tony Spilotro and his days as a government witness. Frank doesn’t pull any punches in this book. I’ve heard him speak before (the Mob Museum has had some great events with him) and I could hear his voice very clearly in the writing. It’s not always grammatically correct, but it gives you a great feel for Frank and his world. He goes into detail about crimes he committed, including murder, and I appreciated the fact he just lays it all out there. He doesn’t portray himself in the best light all the time, so the book has a real feeling of honesty. It also really draws you into a world that people got into knowing what they’d have to do – be it burglary, murder or arson. I was very lucky to get an autographed copy of his book, and I highly recommend it, especially for Vegas history buffs or those who enjoy true crime, especially when it’s mafia related.

FICTION

Night and Day (Iris Johansen)

This is the conclusion to Hide Away (which is a continuation of Shadow Play). We continue to follow Eve, Joe and friends as they attempt to get young Cara away from her sociopathic mother and her Russian mafia father. I was at least happy this book didn’t contain her stereotypical “oversexed male psycho who wants to kill Eve” character (he was dispatched in the previous book …) and had a female villain this time. I just feel like Johansen’s villains are so overwrought now that you can’t take the book seriously. The romance elements with Jane and Caleb and Joe and Eve are also drawn out and overdone. I guess I just feel like this series and these characters have run their course, and the attempts to keep it going aren’t working for me. I’d rather read her Catherine Ling, Margaret Douglas or Kendra Michaels books now. Even the new element to Eve’s life doesn’t feel like it will add anything new to the series … well, except overbearing male characters on a protection kick and women who do what they want with no thought to those around them …

A Novel Journal: The Brothers Grimm  (Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm)

So this is an odd book. I don’t mean because of the stories, I mean because of the format. It’s a journal, and each line to write on is formed by the book text, printed very, very small. It took awhile to read the book because of that – I couldn’t read too much of it at a time without getting a headache. Many of the stories are familiar as the fairy tales Disney has repurposed, although these are in their original forms which are more violent and not as prone to happy endings. In reality, this book isn’t really meant to be read, so much as used. If you’d like to read the original Grimm stories, I’d definitely recommend getting a normal print sized book, but if you’re a fan, this journal is a really great and unique one. I’m also a big fountain pen user, and the paper is AMAZING for fountain pens. It shows off sheen and shimmer really, really well.

Find Her (Lisa Gardner)

The latest DD Warren novel, it focuses on kidnap victim Flora Dane, who was rescued after 472 days in captivity. Flora has started luring potential predators in an effort to find other missing women, and now she’s gone missing again. The book uses Flora’s first person POV, with her flashing back to captivity and her present situation, as well as 3rd person POV from DD Warren. I was happy to see DD’s injury from the previous book is still an issue for her, as it causes her to operate a bit differently than usual. I really enjoyed this book – all of Lisa Gardner’s work is great – and I liked that the mystery of who is kidnapping these women isn’t really the focus – it’s more on Flora and how her captivity changed her, and how she is traveling a road back to living. It highlights some issues of trauma bonding and Stockholm syndrome that I find really interesting. I’d definitely recommend this book if you like suspense thrillers (but I’d also recommend starting at book 1!).

Play With Fire (Dana Stabenow)

This is book 5 in the Kate Shugak series. I think one of my favourite things about this book is the fact that I finally found characters that share my views when it comes to religion. It was refreshing to see a few characters who still believed, but are angry at the way organized religion has co-opted faith, others that are antagonistic toward all organized religions. Overall, the book was great just for this. The case Kate deals with is of a body found while mushroom picking, and its connection to the local hellfire and brimstone preacher in a local town. Goodreads seems divided on the book as a lot of readers seem to expect this to be a traditional murder mystery. The books are shelved in mystery at my local library, so it’s no wonder, but honestly … this book is not a murder mystery. It’s more of a continuation of character exploration with a case added. I think a lot of people hate the ending … and I was not one of them. I found it refreshing to find a book willing to “go there” with the conclusion of the case. As it may be. I really, really love this series. Kate is one of the most refreshing characters I’ve come across in a long time, and I really appreciate all I’m learning about Alaska and issues in that region. Definitely pick up this series, but also temper your hopes that it’ll be a traditional mystery series – while some cases (books) turn out that way, others don’t, and I think the series is stronger for it.

 


Total books read this year – 35

Canadian books read – 12/35

I lost quite a bit of footing this month on Canadian reads. I included the Coupland book as it’s about a Canadian with lots of Canadiana in it, although it wasn’t written by a Canadian.

Writing Update: The Dead Woman

I realized today that I haven’t updated my blog with any information about my current work-in-progress (WIP), which is a sequel to Sin City.

The Dead Woman takes place about 3-4 months after Sin City ends, and follows Tim Kelly as he waits for a shipment of weapons he’s going to sell so he can get into the vending machine business. Only what shows up is a far cry from weapons – Mexican immigrants, including a woman who attempts to steal the rest of his cash for the weapons deal.

The first draft was about 70,000 words, which is far less than Sin City. Part of my re-write is to expand on word count – the direct opposite problem I had on Sin City, which needed to shrink about 30K.

I am currently at 72K, and I am exactly half way through the re-write. I just got through a really tough section that involved a big fight and a major turning point in the entire series, and it took me about a month to get through that.

Goals for May – Get through to chapter 12 at the very least. I want to have the book done by mid-June, off to editing, editing done by the end of June, then formatting during the beginning of July. I am really hoping I can get this released by August or September this year.

I also have some really exciting news regarding a new Sin City book, which will be released before The Dead Woman. The news will be announced to my newsletter follows in the near future.

Speaking of my newsletter, if you want a free ebook, sign up now and you’ll get a copy of Brookline University: Freshman Year. You’ll also get first crack at sales, discount coupons, book news and more – sign up at http://eepurl.com/caLTn5

April Reads – 2017

I read 6 books this month, and finally started chipping away at my to-read pile.

NON FICTION

Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer (Katherine Ramslad)

First, if you’re looking for a true crime book about the crimes of Dennis Rader, you’d be more interested in Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door by Roy Wenzl, which covers that aspect. In this book Ramslad tries to unravel the mind of Rader through letters and conversations. Most of it is Rader’s thoughts on his history and his murders, so it’s a bit hard to read (not just because of his spelling/grammar). He is oblivious about the real world ramifications of what he’s done. He knows, but doesn’t feel the ramifications, so it’s  very callous read in that regard. The victims literally mean nothing to him. The fact he didn’t have a traumatic background like many killers makes his evolution into one a good starting point for criminalists and psychologists to look beyond the stereotypes many serial killers seem to fall under.

While it was an interesting book, I feel like my true crime interests lie a lot more toward the overview of the crimes and then the capture, trial and after effects, which isn’t what this book is about.

Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas (Nicholas Pileggi)

The film Casino was based on this book, which centres around Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, a Chicago oddsmaker whose head for gambling saw him heading the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas in the 1970s. It examines his relationship with showgirl wife Geri, her spiral into drug addiction, and her affair with Rosenthal’s boyhood friend Tony Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit’s man in Las Vegas (in the film Robert De Niro plays a fictional version of Rosenthal, Joe Pesci a fictional version of Spilotro and Sharon Stone a fictional version of Geri McGee).

I really enjoyed all of the background about various people involved in the late ’60s and ’70s in Las Vegas, from Allen Glick to Frank Rosenthal, as well as background on the Hole in the Wall Gang. You get a really good sense of what the vibe of the city was like then. Pileggi starts out showing us a car bombing Rosenthal survived, then takes you back to his roots, showing how he got to the point where he became a liability for the mafia figures he was working with. Overall, this is a great read about the beginning of the end for the mafia in Las Vegas, the skim and Spilotro’s reign in Vegas.

 

FICTION

Playing with Fire (Tess Gerritsen)

This is a standalone novel, unrelated to her Rizzoli and Isles series. It reminded me a lot of her previous book The Bone Garden in that it takes place in the present and the past. Violinist Julia returns home from Italy with a piece of music called Incendio, and whenever she plays it, her daughter commits a violent act. In 1930s Italy, Jewish violinist Lorenzo partners with cellist Laura during the changing political climate of WWII. The two stories weave together in a heartbreaking finish that has you guessing about the conclusion.

Author Tess Gerritsen composed a real piece of music called Incendio you can download on iTunes and Amazon. I enjoyed the book, but I found it a bit on the short side (an interview in the back indicated it was originally a novella of only Julia’s story and Lorenzo’s was added later). Overall, I liked it, but I still prefer her series books.

Four Weeks, Five People (Jennifer Yu)

I won a copy of this YA book from a Goodreads giveaway. I was a little nervous about reading a book about 5 teens that attend a wilderness camp for people suffering from mental illnesses. Since I have depression and anxiety, it’s not a topic I want to read about. Each character (3 boys, 2 girls) suffers from a different disorder, from OCD to anorexia, narcissism to disassociation and depression. It took a bit of time to connect with each character, since each of the 5 viewpoints is written in first person and each chapter is a new character.

It was hard to get through the book, only because there’s a lot of truth in what the characters say and feel about their own mental health issues as well as each others’. No one is miraculously cured at the end of it (although Clarisa is probably closest), but I like that Stella says “Maybe we go through our entire lives trying to find the right therapist and the right meds and the right people to surround ourselves with, and on some days it works, and on some days it doesn’t, and that’s just how it is.” When your mental health issues are for life, that’s exactly how it is. So I appreciate the honesty, but it’s not an easy read because of it. I don’t think I’d actively search out other books with a mental illness focus like this, only because I find it personally upsetting. That being said, the author (only 20 years old) has enough understanding of mental illness to find the words to make it upsetting, which makes it an authentic read.

Still Missing (Chevy Stevens)

I saw the author was Canadian and wrote suspense/thrillers, and vowed to read some of her books. Still Missing is the story of a realtor named Annie, abducted while running an open house. The book shifts between sessions with a psychiatrist where she recounts what happened to her in captivity, as well as the feelings she has that it’s not over and she’s not yet safe.

The session sections where she’s addressing her shrink come off a little bit like trying too hard, but I enjoyed the narrative that was recounting her experiences directly. The twist ending seemed a little out there to me, especially because the book felt more like a psychological drama than a whodunnit. Aside from that, one thing I appreciated was that we saw the effect on other people around Annie regarding her abduction and return. Her relationships were not easily fixed, her life didn’t go back to normal. There was realism in some regards, but then some of the storyline with the twist was out there. Overall, I enjoyed it enough to read more of Stevens’s books.

That Night (Chevy Stevens)

This novel focuses on Toni Murphy, serving time for killing her sister, which she insists she didn’t do. Stevens’s thrillers are a slow burn kind of book, not the cliffhanger and danger-at-every-turn type of thriller I’m used to reading. I appreciate the … I don’t want to say quietness, but the time it takes for the full story to come out. In this book, Toni tells her story, flashing from present day as she’s released from prison to the past when the murder of her sister occurred and the more recent past with her serving time and coping with prison. I think the first person POV also helps to slow the narrative down so that you get the full impact of what’s happened to Toni. There are hints about the identity of the killer, and much of the beginning of the book has a YA vibe since Toni was 18 during that section, but overall I liked this one a lot. It’s also set in Vancouver (prison) and Campbell River (Toni’s hometown) so I enjoy reading about local places a lot.


Total books read this year: 27

Canadian books read: 11/27

 

 

March Reads – 2017

I read 8 books this month, 5 of which were non-fiction. My weekly trips to the library have me interested in non-fic for some reason. I have a ton of fiction on my to-read pile at home that I hope to get to in April, yet I still keeping taking out piles of library books and my to-read pile keeps growing.

NON FICTION

Ghost Stories of Canada (John Robert Colombo)

I’m attempting to read more Canadian authors and more Canadian content this year. I got this book from the library. I enjoyed it, but was disappointed at the lack of West Coast stories. The Ontario and Quebec sections were quite large (the author is from Back East so I assume he had more stories from those regions because of that), but there was a lack of stories from BC, even though I know of a lot of good ghost stories from this area. I was happy, however, to see the North included – so many books focusing on Canada tend to skip Yukon, Nunavut and NWT. Many of the stories from the 1800s and early 1900s were quite short, so I enjoyed the more recent ones since they had more background and information.

On the Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver’s Missing Women (Stevie Cameron)

I’ve read a lot of true crime, but I don’t think a book has ever enraged me as much as this one. Maybe it’s because I’m from Vancouver and experienced this case in real time, maybe it’s because so many of the missing women were close to my age. Reading this book was so rage-inducing because of seeing the actual scope of police incompetence in this case. I’m not joking when I say that hearing the details of the lack of interest most of the men of the Vancouver Police Department had in finding these missing women makes me feel that I will never in my life be able to truly trust that department. I blame them as much as Willie Pickton for the deaths of these women. Their lack of attention allowed Pickton to kill more women, and that is indefensible.

It took me a long time to get through this 700+ page book, only because I had to put it down so many times because my blood pressure was giving me headaches. Every cop who ever dismissed the family members of these women should be publicly shamed for the rest of time. They disgust me. The lack of humanity Pickton showed his victims is echoed in the majority of the police that were “on” the case. They are almost more dangerous and insidious than Pickton, because they were supposed to be protecting people, and they failed so badly it’s embarrassing.

As for this book, it’s extremely well done. I wish there were more pictures of the women, as I find that seeing them in life really brings home their tremendous loss. I appreciated hearing from the women’s family and friends, support workers in the DTES and people who knew Pickton as well, as it paints a very full picture of what happened. I did spot a few errors – mostly in geography – but I put that down to the author being from Back East (although an editor should have caught those mistakes). Overall, this is one of the most comprehensive books in the true crime genre, and one that won’t fail to have you shaking your head at the epic incompetence of Vancouver law enforcement.

Archetypes: Who Are You? (Caroline Myss)

I found this book fell short of what I was hoping. I was hoping to use this for characters in my writing, but found the profiles were fairly generic. I was also annoyed that so much of the book talked about other archetypes, subtypes of the main ones profiled in the book, yet hardly any of these sub-archetypes were described at all. The book felt like a big advertisement for the website (which no longer exists!) and I was annoyed at all the name dropping of the archetypes that never were summarized. Since you’re reading to learn about them, the name dropping makes you feel clueless since you don’t get a profile to explain them. I suppose the author thought was we’d be interested enough to read about the rest on the site, but now that the website is gone, the book just feels incomplete and useless. If you’re looking for a similar style of book (especially if you’re a writer), try The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein, Inner Drives by Pamela Jaye Smith or 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. Granted, they are for character building rather than personal development, but they apply more to personal archetypes than this book.

Terry (Douglas Coupland)

This book is a must-read for every Canadian in the country. Douglas Coupland has curated some of the most interesting pictures and items related to Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope. The book covers everything from his earlier life, school life, cancer diagnosis, amputation and his subsequent idea to run across Canada raising money for cancer research. His goal was one dollar for every Canadian – a goal he has exceeded tremendously. Fox had to cut his run short due to the return of his cancer, and died almost a year later, having captured the hearts and imaginations of all Canadians. His Terry Fox Run still operates today as a reminder of his simple wish to find a cure for cancer.

Coupland has taken some amazing photos of everything from Terry’s prosthetic, his run clothes, and the jar of water he took from the Atlantic Ocean, and curated many letters, photos and other items sent to Terry during his run. It gives you an amazing picture of Terry Fox. I had to pause a lot while reading because so much of it made me tear up. I was only four when he began running, but all through elementary school we learned about his hope. There was something so Canadian about Terry, and the book makes me so proud he is ours. A definite must-read.

Kitten Clone: The History of the Future at Bell Labs (Douglas Coupland)

This book isn’t something I’d normally pick up – it’s a look at the telecom company Alcatel-Lucent – but I love Douglas Coupland’s writing. There’s something about his non-fiction that always makes me nod along with his observations, and as Alcatel-Lucent is responsible for a lot of technology surrounding the internet, there are a lot of observations to make. The book is accompanied by a lot of photos of the various labs the company runs, and there’s this strange, 1970s run down elementary school feeling to the buildings that is very evident in the photos. It brings forth a lot of nostalgia … for a place I’ve never been to. I find that really fascinating. If you’re interested in technology and scientific discovery, this book will be interesting for that, but I really enjoyed it for its observations about people. Coupland always seems to nail feelings that everyone has, but can’t put into words.

FICTION

The Last Hostage (John J. Nance)

I have read only one of Nance’s previous books, Pandora’s Clock, which I really enjoyed despite my fear of diseases (the premise is a doomsday virus potentially loose on a commercial flight). The Last Hostage follows the highjacking of a 737 by a pilot who has suffered a personal tragedy and finds the man he believes responsible on his plane. I really enjoyed this book, even more so than the first I read. Nance’s female FBI hostage negotiator is a smart, intuitive investigator (who apparently appears in more novels!), and the pilot is written in a way that makes the reader wonder if he’s off his rocker or justified. The side characters (flight attendants, passengers, law enforcement) are all really well done too. The story has some great twists and turns, and by the last quarter of the book, you are really cheering for the bad guy to get his comeuppance. I really hope someone has optioned this, because I think it would make a great action-suspense film (with Julianne Moore as Agent Bronsky). I picked this up at a local used book sale by chance, and I’m really glad I did. Highly recommend this!

I Am Pusheen the Cat (Claire Belton)

If you’re on the internet and you like cats, you’ve probably seen Pusheen, a cute little cartoon cat based on the author’s childhood cat. This book was filed in the juvenile first fiction section of my library, as each page is a little comic with information on Pusheen. It’s a really cute little book. I love the illustration style, and the characters of Pusheen and Stormy are adorable. It’s a quick read even though the book is quite thick (especially for a children’s book), but the text is simple, short and easy to read for kids. That being said, it’s also good for adults who love adorable cats. I call these adults “cool people”.

Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People (Douglas Coupland)

Coupland pairs up with illustrator Graham Roumieu for this book of 7 short stories which are not for young people. They are, as the title says, highly inappropriate. I wanted to enjoy the book more, but I’m just not a short fiction fan. I always find shorts leave me feeling like I didn’t even get started, and it frustrates me. As amusing as some of the little stories were (they have titles like Donald, the Incredibly Hostile Juice Box and Kevin, the Hobo-Minivan with Extremely Low Morals), I didn’t feel as involved in them as much as I would have liked. I thought the illustrations were perfectly matched to the stories, and … this is weird, but Coupland is a local, and sometimes I absolutely felt like I knew exactly where a vague place he mentioned was. There was something about certain descriptions and wordings that made me feel like he was describing a local place. I can’t explain it any better than that lol. If you like shorts and you like Coupland’s wry sense of humour, you’ll probably enjoy this quick read.


Quick note, 3 out of the 6 books I read this month were Canadian authors, which I’m very happy with. I’m still on the hunt for some good Canadian suspense/thriller books (in the vein of Kathy Reichs, Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner etc). Cops investigating serial killers, that sort of thing. Comment if you know of any, traditionally published or self published!

Total books read this year: 21

Canadian books read: 9/21

Just shy of half my reads being Canadian, which is pretty good. I have a feeling when I pick up more fiction it’ll shrink a bit.

 

New Brookline University Covers!

If you happened to look at Amazon, Kobo or Goodreads (or even this website!) you’ll notice the new Brookline University covers are up!

It’s going to take a few days to weeks for all platforms to be carrying the new versions, but the Amazon, Kobo and Lulu digital books are already up. Print is on the way at Amazon and already up at Lulu. I’ve asked Amazon to send updates to people who have purchased previous copies, so if they allow it, it will prompt you to download an updated version on your Manage Your Content and Devices page.

You can read Brookline University: Freshman Year for FREE if you join my newsletter!

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New Brookline University Covers – Coming Soon!

I’m excited to announce that Brookline University is going to have new covers very soon!

While my old covers featured some fantastic images by great photographers, it was time for me to revamp and restyle the covers to suit the YA/NA theme of the books a little better. I’m so excited about these new covers, and I’m going to be premiering their new look very soon, so keep your eyes on this blog.

 

Piece of Work ebook FREE

My ebook short story Piece of Work, a prequel to the Sin City novel, is now FREE at Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and other retailers.

Currently the book is sitting at number 2 on the free Kindle Short Reads for Mystery, Thriller and Suspense.


Tim Kelly has never been a fan of the Chicago Mob, and in 1965 Las Vegas, they’re the only game in town.

Tim’s latest venture has caught the attention of Sam Wyatt, a Fremont Street mobster with two casinos. Unfortunately, he’s also caught the attention of the Chicago Outfit’s most ruthless enforcer. Now Tim has a choice to make – play ball or stake his own claim – and his decision could have lasting effects.

Download the book for free at the following retailers:

Amazon Kindle US
Amazon Kindle Canada
Amazon Kindle UK
Amazon Kindle Australia
Amazon Kindle France
Lulu.com ePub
Kobo
Nook
Indigo.ca
Apple iBookstore
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Let’s Talk Story Bibles

All of my published books have been (or will be) series. While I was writing Brookline University, I used a binder and filled it with notes on everything that appeared in the series. The binder saved my butt numerous times. You don’t think you’ll forget if a minor character is Sonia or Sonya, but you will. A “story bible” as they call it in screenwriting, collects all of that information, making it easy to keep continuity. (And here’s the TV Tropes entry … okay, bye, see you in 12 hours!)

As I’m in a re-write/edit of the sequel to Sin City, I realized I was in desperate need of a story bible, as I was having to look up pertinent details all the time. My notes were scattered between dozens of notebooks and stopping to look things up and search for notes was really hampering my ability to work on the book. In the last two weeks I’ve put together an 81-page story bible (which will keep growing, I’m sure!). Here’s a little look at it. (Note: The pics are small since I include spoilery stuff in my notes sometimes)

The Note Tote


I love Hilroy Note Tote binders from 1989/1990 or so (aka the Canadian version of a Trapper Keeper). The present-day ones are shiny and awful (Hilroy! Make them like the old school ones again!), so I use ones from when I was in high school. I love the pocketed dividers that came with these as well.

I determined early on I needed a ring binder, because I move stuff around a lot. I get really upset when I “mess up” a page, so I like being able to redo it and put it in there. You may prefer a nice leather notebook, looseleaf in a folder or a spiral bound book. Whatever works!

Character Profiles

Usually the first page or two is just lists of the characters with major details. Name, birth date, birth place, hair colour, eye colour, blood type, MBTI and astrological sign. I list all the characters like that on one or two pages.

After that, I do more in depth profiles where I’ll list the character’s full name and stats, then do point form lists of major things that appear in the book.

For example, in Sin City, I mention that Ruby has a horse named Bella, is a trick rider, dated Lewis in Abilene, drinks coffee (but I never said how she took it), etc. I can add to the notes as the series goes on. I don’t usually have to add personality info because I know it, but I do add little things like “always wears a ring on the third finger on the right hand” so I don’t accidentally say left hand.

Location Profiles


In Sin City I have point form descriptions of all of the locations I’ve created (see above), then the same for fictional casinos, real casinos that existed at the time on Fremont and the Strip, and other businesses that existed in Las Vegas at the time.

I also have a ton of maps for myself, since street names changed, entire areas were changed and I like to be accurate.

 

Other Profiles/Miscellaneous

You may need profiles for things that are really specific to your book. In Brookline I had pages of information on sorority rush, lists of names of girls in each pledge class, school schedules etc. Sin City has lists of horses that Rett owns, types of guns that have shown up, etc.

I also include historical weather info (like when Las Vegas gets a big flood, like they did in July 1975, which left cars floating in the Caesars Palace parking lot), tidbits about the city (when the first female card dealer began working on the Strip, etc). You may find you need a list of words in your created fantasy language, a diagram of what a character’s house looks like, or a collection of info on how evidence is processed in a murder.

Timelines

I have a point form timeline of when everything occurs in the book. I include dates in my books, both to orient the reader in the time period and to keep things organized for me. Since I use “real time” to track everything, I need to make sure things work out (right day, right date etc).

My Sin City timeline is very basic. It looks like this:

Tue Mar 13 – Tim gets out of jail. Ruby training for rodeo.
Wed Mar 14 – Rett throws a huge party at the bar.

Basically I just outline when things happened. I may make note of a birthday (especially if it’s something a POV character might comment on) or if there was a major weather event or something major happened in the news.

With Brookline, I printed out monthly calendars where I included all event info and when things happened. The series is set in the early 90s, so the calendar in that form reminded me of an actual sorority event calendar. I included all sorority events, when school breaks would be, if/when characters met, major holidays and birthdays etc.

Pictures/Drawings/Inspiration

I often find pictures that look like how I envision a character, or it’s the right model of car etc. Things I find online go into my Pinterest account – either the public board for each book, or a private one that will eventually become public (especially if it’s for an upcoming book). Any pictures I find in magazines I cut out and keep in the pockets of the Note Tote. It’s handy to be able to refer to a photo to describe something.

Handwritten? Typed? Digital? Analog?

I chose all of the above. I typed up my story bible initially, then upload it a copy to Google Docs to share with my editor/co-writer. I also printed out a copy to file in the Note Tote. My handwriting is terrible, so having the majority of it typed helps for readability.

Even though the majority of the story bible is done, I’ll be adding info all the time, and that will be done by hand. (I may eventually type it up if there’s a lot of notes). I also update the digital versions, because if I’m away from home, I can access it and have the latest version.

For me, I really needed a physical copy to leaf through, and I prefer to take notes by hand initially as well. It helps me organize what notes are actually important and I want to use vs doing general research before I settle on something.

You may want to do it all by hand, online only or just in Word. If you like having it available online, check out Google Docs, Evernote and Microsoft One Note for accessing it on multiple devices. Dropbox is also a great way to backup/access the file from other places.

In closing …

A story bible can contain whatever you most need it to. If you need detailed character profiles, a list of descriptions of each person’s pets, detailed instructions on how to take an engine apart, or photos of different models of jets, you can collect information any way that works for you.

I highly recommend series writers create a story bible to help keep continuity. Hopefully you’ve had a little bit of fun peeking into my 1990s throwback style one =)

 

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February Reads – 2017

I got through six books this month, three fiction and three non-fiction.

NON FICTION

Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work  (Tim Gunn)

Project Runway’s Tim Gunn dishes out advice and quite a bit of autobiography in this read. I’ve watched Project Runway since its inception, and I always liked Tim, but this book made me realize what a gem of a man he is. His knack for telling stories had me laughing, and I appreciated his honest assessments of the fashion industry. He doesn’t go easy on himself either, sharing personal information and analysis with aplomb. I went into the book looking for info on Project Runway, but found I appreciated the inside look at who Tim Gunn is more than anything. He is a delight, and I fully recommend this book.

Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers (D.P. Lyle)

Dr. D.P. Lyle answers questions from writers about everything from drowning to gunshot wounds, poison to putrefaction. I own his other book Forensics and Fiction and they are both amazing guides, especially if you write medical thrillers, mysteries, or anything that involves murder or investigations. I especially liked that Lyle addressed the specific questions asked regarding the askers plot ideas. This is a great tool for adding to your knowledge of death, unnatural or not.

Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder (John Gilmore)

I wasn’t a fan of this book. I did like the profile of Elizabeth Short’s early life, but so much of the latter half of the book was conjecture with no citations, no proof and a feeling of wanting to be the big case solving hero. I think proof  is always a big issue when dealing with writing about unsolved cases, which makes it even more important to cite sources (whether it be police files or actually interviews). I also felt like the book text itself was aiming to be a serious overview of the Black Dahlia case, but the design and presentation was made to be as salacious as possible. The book included autopsy photos and photos of murdered women in situ. I’m sure some people view it as historical, but it seemed like an excuse to shock and sell books to include these photos – not to mention extremely disrespectful of the victims’ remaining family/descendants, but also to the murdered women themselves. So I was very disappointed in this book. If you want good true crime, Philip Carlo’s “The Night Stalker” and Carlton Smith and Tomas Guillen’s “The Search For The Green River Killer” are much, much better.

FICTION

Hide Away (Eve Duncan, #20) (Iris Johansen)

Eve Duncan is a forensic sculptor, and in the preceding case, has rescued an 11-year-old girl targeted by a cartel. That previous book had really started to wear on me with the characterizations of Eve and Joe. He comes off like an abusive stalker in his over protection, and she comes off as someone who ultimately does what she wants, everyone else be damned. I can’t see how either of these awful people has friends who want to be around them with their behaviour. The books are very formulaic. Bad guy, usually ultra macho with sexual deviancy, targeting Eve and/or Joe and/or someone innocent they’ve befriended. They go on the run, Joe gets all macho/hubris/borderline abusive wanting to protect Eve who gets headstrong and in the end someone (usually Eve and/or innocent) is in mortal peril with the bad guy and is saved by Joe and/or the innocent who usually has some kind of slightly supernatural gift. Every. Book. I wish she’d ended this series with the Eve/Joe/Bonnie series and moved on, even if it was just to books about Jane with Eve and Joe as the side characters. As it is, I read it, but didn’t feel invested at all, which sucks because I liked the early books a lot. It ends on an unfinished cliffhanger too. I feel like I’m now being tricked to keep reading, instead of wanting to because the characters are amazing and the plots are awesome.

No Safe House (No Time For Goodbye, #2) (Linwood Barclay)

This is a sequel to No Time For Goodbye. It follows Cynthia and Terry years after the end of the previous book. Daughter Grace is a teenager now and gets involved in a shooting while breaking into a house with her boyfriend. Enter Vince, the criminal who helped them discover the answers to what happened to Cynthia’s family in the previous book. I really enjoy that Barclay’s main characters here are normal, average people who get into awful situations. Terry is really an average Joe, and it’s so easy to imagine yourself in his place. A lot of thrillers have police/military/spy characters, so it’s nice to see a teacher dealing with this kind of stuff in a realistic way instead of someone who has life experience at it. I do think you should read the first book before this one, just because it sets up the family dynamic and this book allows you to see all of the changes.

Sin City (Jennifer Samson)

Yeah, I read my own book for the first time since I’d published it last year. So, needless to say, I won’t review it since I may be a tad biased lol. But if you like crime/love story books, books set in the 1960s, old Las Vegas or books like The Outsiders, this series may be up your alley. Download the short story prequel Piece of Work for free to get a glimpse inside Sin City.


Aside from going to the library twice a week, I’ve bought a few books lately. My to-read pile includes some Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, John J. Nance and Chevy Stevens. I’m especially excited to get to the Chevy Stevens book since she’s a BC author. Since I have so much bought fiction to get through, I’m pretty sure I’ll be taking mostly non-fic out of the library for the next little while.

Total books read: 13

Canadian books read: 4/13

 

January Reads – 2017

This year I set my Goodreads reading challenge goal to 50 books, despite reading over that in 2016. At the rate I’m going, I might have to up that goal. Here’s a look at the books I finished in January.

NON FICTION

Forensics for Dummies (D.P. Lyle)

This book was an extremely intensive overview of forensic investigation, from blood spatter to fingerprinting and more. It took me awhile to get through this book because it was so densely packed with information. I highly recommend it for crime writers, and I am thinking I’ll probably purchase this one down the road, because it makes for an excellent reference guide.

Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs (Bob Brier)

I have always loved ancient Egypt, and this book discusses the interest so many people have in it. The stories of how obelisks left Egypt and got to their present day locations is really fascinating, as are the photos of so many Egyptian themed collectibles. It does jump through time a lot, but it’s a really interesting overview of why we’re so fascinated with Egypt.

FICTION

No Time for Goodbye (No Time For Goodbye #1) (Linwood Barclay)

In my quest to find Canadian authors of suspense, thriller or mystery books, I was suggested Linwood Barclay, who is actually a dual citizen. This book was set in the US, and I was surprised to find it was a first person male POV. I realized a few pages in that it has been eons since I’ve read that type of POV. It took a little while to get comfortable in the head of a married man with a young daughter and troubled wife (and why is that when I can step into the head of a female cop so easily and that’s just as removed from my life?). The book focuses on a woman whose entire family disappeared when she was a teenager, and her quest to find out what happened. Barclay uses some POV of … someone, so you know there is something shady going on, and the more you read, the more that POV becomes clear, which was a really interesting technique. I really liked this book, and I’ll be getting the sequel out soon.

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #11) (Lawrence Block)

Another male POV, this time Bernie Rhodenbarr, bookstore owner and burglar. I have loved this series since I read the first book. It’s a slow burn, as much of Block’s Burglar series is – you’re always wondering when the dead body is showing up or what the actual problem will be. The dialogue and back-and-forth between Bernie and pretty much everyone is my favourite part. I really enjoy the characters, especially his best friend Carolyn. I wish Block could write more Bernie books way faster. And considering there was a list of 4 people after me who had this book on hold at the library, I think I’m not the only one.

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1) (Louise Penny)

Another Canadian author, and this time with a book set in Quebec. I was really looking forward to this, but was disappointed in the end. I think the biggest problem I had was the overuse of POVs. We jump into so many different character’s heads, which may not be a problem (I read George R.R. Martin after all), but Penny was changing POVs in the same scene. One paragraph we were with Inspector Gamache, a second later in Clara’s head, then her husband, then back to Gamache, then the trainee … it was dizzying, and I hated every second of it. Give me a good 1st person or 3rd limited any time. It’s a cozy small town mystery, which I’ve realized isn’t my preference. I did like Gamache as a character, but the book was so chaotic feeling thanks to all the POV switches that I have no urge to read on in this series, which is a real shame.

Phantom Evil (Krewe of Hunters, #1) (Heather Graham)

I don’t read a ton of paranormal (despite reading paranormal non-fic). I think the most I’ve read is Lois Duncan and Iris Johansen. So this was a bit of a genre departure for me. This follows a government team put together to investigate a possible suicide that takes place in a house people say is cursed or haunted. While I liked the book, I did feel like there were way too many characters. I am wondering if it’s something that gets sorted out in later books, and this one just suffered a bit from trying to introduce an entire premise and characters at once (although the author smartly staggered the characters’ arrival times to give us time … still wasn’t enough for me). Between the team and the potential suspects, it was a lot to keep track of. That being said, I’ll be interested to read the second book in the series to see if everything gels more and the characters differentiate themselves more.  I didn’t feel too connected to anyone yet, so I’m hoping it gets better as it goes on.

A Cold-Blooded Business (Kate Shugak, #4) (Dana Stabenow)

This book is set in Prudhoe Bay against the backdrop of an oil company having trouble with drugs making their way on site. Kate is hired to find out who is bringing it in. I enjoyed the book, but I felt like it went by too fast to really get a good sense of the characters.  My favourite of the series is still book 3. I hope the next in the series goes back to Niniltna, since I feel like we’ve been away from it for awhile.


I read a lot this month – partly because I started going to my local library twice a week in an effort to get out and walk. I’ll get a book out on Monday and try and finish it by Friday. I used to go to the library all the time, and hadn’t for awhile, and I’m finding that I’m reading physical books way faster than my ebooks (probably because I can read in the bath lol). I’m hoping I can keep up this pace for the year.

I’m also trying to read more Canadian authors. Of the 7 books I read this month, 2 were by Canadians.

Canadian author tally: 2/7