Author C. M. Skiera's Blog

Books I like and helpful tips for fellow indie authors.

Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women - Jim Butcher, George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Lev Grossman, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Joe Abercrombie, Sam Sykes, Diana Rowland, Caroline Spector, Melinda Snodgrass, Cecelia Holland, Megan Abbott, Megan Lindholm, Nancy Kress, Pat Cadigan, Joe R. Lansdale, Gardner R. Dozois

A wonderful collection of speculative fiction short stories by some of the genre's most talented writers. Not a dull tale in the bunch.

My 1st Booklikes Giveaway

I'm trying my first giveaway on Booklikes. Look for my free YA Epic Fantasy in the giveaways. Hint: It's called Crimson & Cream.

The Dragon Gem

The Dragon Gem - Brian Beam The Dragon Gem is a fantasy adventure tale featuring a wise-cracking protagonist and a colorful cast of cohorts. This book is written from the perspective of the author's journal, and includes some light-hearted as well as gut-wrenching moments. The story moves along at a quick pace, with conflict and dilemma at every turn. Book 1 sets up many mysteries waiting to be unraveled in the following books, but is a well-rounded story that stands on its own.

The Fool's Assassin

The Fool's Assassin - Robin Hobb A long overdue return to the familiar world of The Farseers. As enchanting and wonderful as any of the predecessors, with all the intrigue, danger, and subtle humor that marks Fitz's tale, this story was a pleasure to read. I long for the next installment.

Opening the Creativity Diamond

Opening the Creativity Diamond - Tony    Jones Opening the Creativity Diamond: The writer's guide to creative thinking by Tony Jones, is a book designed to help writers unleash their potential. In his book, Mr. Jones reveals proven ways to 'jump-start' your brain, including detailed examples, puzzles, and brain teasers.

The book begins by explaining what the Creativity Diamond is, and how a writer can benefit from understanding it, while Chapter Two explores the Myers Briggs personality traits, and how you can understand your own traits and learn how they influence your creativity. From this foundation, Opening the Creativity Diamond goes on to provide creativity-generating techniques like brainstorming, anchoring, random stimulus, role-storming, and more. In general, the book defines a technique, explains how to use it, describes why it works, and offers tips for implementation.

A favorite example of mine is The Six Questions (or 5Ws and 1H): Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? Mr. Jones describes how you can use these prompts to make sure your writing is creatively providing your reader with the necessary information. Even if you don't answer all six questions in your scene, mentally addressing each will help you craft a coherent and robust narrative, and possibly provide you with fresh ideas you may have overlooked by not considering the 5Ws and 1H.

Although I've read many guides on the various components of writing, and a couple books on personality traits, I've not read a book combining the two into a creativity guide. I found found Opening the Creativity Diamond to be a short (50 pages), fun, educational read, and recommend it to any author searching for ways to maximize their creative potential.

Best Served Cold

Best Served Cold - Joe Abercrombie Joe Abercrombie is the Elmore Leonard of fantasy. Deep, rich, real, flawed characters with sharp, witty dialogue, stumbling their way through poor choices and bad decisions, and coming to grips with the consequences.

Last Argument of Kings

Last Argument of Kings - Joe Abercrombie Thrilling conclusion to a great trilogy, hated to see it end.

Techniques of the Selling Writer

Techniques of the Selling Writer - Dwight V. Swain Although Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer is older than I am (which is pretty darn old), it stands the test of time and remains a valuable read for writers, especially beginners and those still striving to perfect their craft. So, you may be asking, why bother reviewing a 49-year old book? Fair question. It's one of the most cited and referenced books on writing I've encountered, and after reading it, I can understand why. If you haven't heard of it, or given it a try, I'll attempt to convince you.

Techniques of the Selling Writer focuses on the premise of understanding your reader’s motivation for reading. With that goal in mind, the book then provides instructions on how to successfully assemble your story to give your readers a powerful emotional experience. Dwight V. Swain's book can be thought of as a builder's manual for crafting a satisfying and rewarding story.

Possibly the most well-known concept Swain presents in this book is the Motivation-Reaction Unit (MRU). The core building block of storytelling, MRUs are comprised of something that your point-of-view (POV) character experiences (sees, hears, thinks, or even tastes or smells), which motivates him/her to react to. At its basic level, a story consists of a character experiencing life (and its inevitable conflict) and reacting to it, over and over again. Techniques of the Selling Writer explains MRUs in fine detail and provides a plethora of examples. Swain then shows you how to take MRUs and use them to build scenes and sequels using structure and simple patterns, which in turn comprise chapters, and, ultimately, your novel.

Swain's scene pattern consists of Goal-Conflict-Disaster combinations, followed by a corresponding sequel, which is comprised of a Reaction-Dilemma-Decision trio. If this process seems formulaic and too structured for your taste, understand there is nearly an infinite amount of flexibility in how you can apply and interpret these suggestions. They are guidelines to help you build your story without gaps that leave your reader confused.

For me, Techniques of the Selling Writer was not a quick read, as the concepts and multitude of examples required time to digest, and I found myself reading much slower than I do with a fiction novel, for fear of skimming through something important.

And, as nothing is perfect, I found a few issues that could be potentially off-putting. I think the book offers more examples than most people probably need. I felt like I understood Swain's points after reading about half of the provided examples. In addition, as can be expected with a book published in 1965, some portions are outdated, based on today's technology, markets, and culture. I would recommend focusing on the storytelling advice and not worrying about the dated content (it comprises only a small part of the book).

Before They Are Hanged

Before They Are Hanged - Joe Abercrombie The 1st Book (The Blade Itself) was good, but Before They Are Hanged is great. Whereas I found the The Blade Itself a little slow to start, Before They Are Hanged hits the ground running and never lets up. I didn't want this book to end, and will be jumping into the next book ASAP. I love Ambercrombie's vivid characters and their rapier wit. This book is all meat, no carbs.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print - Renni Browne, Dave    King Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, is an excellent guide, and one I recommend checking out. I think the title may be unintentionally limiting, as this is not just a guide on self-editing, but a valuable resource for avoiding many common writing mistakes in the first place.

The guide teaches techniques that transform promising manuscripts into published works by taking the reader through the same processes an editor goes through. The book targets common mistakes and explains how to edit what you've written. The points are illustrated with an abundance of 'before' and 'after' example excerpts drawn from works of famous writers and/or books Browne and King have edited.

The two minor criticisms I have are that the authors could be less self-referential and the example passages could be shorter and more to the point, while still being effective. Not everything presented in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers will be new to you, but you may find fresh insight as to why certain issues are deemed problematic and the reasons behind why it's best to avoid them.

If using a selection from The Great Gatsby as an example of showing how certain passages can be improved is a turn-off, beware, for this happens. However, if you can approach this book with an open mind and focus on the words (and not the legendary baggage that comes with them), it can be a valid and rewarding learning experience as well as a handy reference guide.

Story Engineering

Story Engineering - Larry Brooks I have kind of a love-hate relationship with this book. I think it's a good book with an excellent plan for writing a story. I buy into the concept; it's logical, solid, and documented. I'll be using the method in my writing from this point forward and going back to the book as a resource. When Mr. Brooks sticks to explaining the process, it's enlightening. Unfortunately, it seems half the book is metaphors, analogies, and the author trying to convince the reader his method is legitimate. I repeated to myself "I bought the book, I'm reading it--you can stop trying to convince me now." Seriously. A lot of redundancy and it's easily twice as long as it needs to be, but still, a fantastic blueprint and excellent when it's used as a teaching tool and not a piece of propaganda for the movement.

Storm Without End

Storm Without End - R.J. Blain In a world full of conflict, nothing is as it seems. Storm Without End thrusts its characters into peril and challenges the reader to unravel the mysteries and histories of the Rift King. Hidden agendas, secrets, and half-truths are revealed the deeper the story goes. The characters are put through a meat grinder in this gritty, complex fantasy adventure set in a unique and original world. I enjoyed this book and look forward to the next installment.

How I Sold 30 000 eBooks on Amazon's Kindle-An Easy-To-Follow

How I Sold 30 000 eBooks on Amazon's Kindle-An Easy-To-Follow - Martin Crosbie A fantastic resource for indie writers. As good a book of its type as any I've read (and I've read quite a few).

How to Edit, Revise and Rewrite Your Novel--a Quick and Simple Guide (Writing Novels)

How to Edit, Revise and Rewrite Your Novel--a Quick and Simple Guide (Writing Novels) - Gordon Kessler Gordon Kessler's book "How to Edit, Revise and Rewrite Your Novel--A Quick and Simple Guide" is a very helpful little resource. Packed with great information for the beginning and intermediate writer (like me), this guide is succinct, well-written, and organized, without a lot of fluff. At the price of free, it's definitely worth picking up.

Corpses Rarely Wander: How I Became a Loveless Trailer Park Nomad

Corpses Rarely Wander: How I Became a Loveless Trailer Park Nomad - Cynthia Polutanovich Corpses Rarely Wander: How I Became a Loveless, Trailer Park Nomad by Cynthia Polutanovich is a compelling read. In this chronological memoir, the author bares her soul to the reader, detailing the specifics of her difficult life with honesty and candor. The painful, sad, and sometimes harrowing events are not sugar-coated, nor is the author fishing for sympathy or casting blame. She reveals her inner demons while chronicling her efforts to rise above the adversity that haunts her like a stubborn ghost. Simultaneously poignant and humorous, the coming-of-age-style story kept me intrigued to the finish. The somewhat abrupt ending left me wanting to know more, which is a good thing.

The Art of War

The Art of War - Thomas Cleary, Sun Tzu Brilliant in its simplicity. Amazing to think it was written over 2,000 years ago.