Saturday, December 19, 2015

Kindle Quest 2015: Help for The Haunted

Help for The Haunted has been on my kindle for over a year. I think I found it on BookBub for $1.99. I’d been meaning to read it for some time, and I decided to finally start because I’m interested in writing a ghost story, and I thought might benefit from reading what looked to be a promising novel.

I wasn’t disappointed. It takes place in 1980s New England, where Sylvie is trying to come to terms with her parent’s murder.  Sylvie’s mother was “gifted” – she could pray for haunted souls and somehow bring them peace. Sylvie’s father also worked in the paranormal, and together they provided “help for the haunted.” But shortly before they’re murdered, a book is released about them that calls their integrity into question. Plus, they’re having HUGE trouble with their older daughter, Rose, and the dad of one of the girls they supposedly helped is very bitter towards them.

So Sylvie thinks she knows what happened. Then, she realizes how little she knows, but she also gets that she is the only one who can find out. Sylvie narrates this story, and her character is merely middle-school age. Yet Sylvie is very wise – “special” – like her mother was, and she comes to question not just her upbringing, but everything she once believed to be true. This is a ghost story for sure, but it’s one that questions whether or not ghosts exist.

I liked this story, and I thought the twist at the end was well done. I did think the pacing was pretty slow; the chapters were very long and it took a while to get to the exciting part. The build-up was drawn out, so it’s a good thing that there was payoff at the end.

Sylvie was a great character, and John Searle’s writing is quite skilled. If you’re looking for a creepy, sometimes disturbing, sometimes uplifting story, try Help for The Haunted.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


In the latest issue of Glamour, Tina Fey talks about her most recent role in the movie, Sisters: "Woman-child, I think, is in reference to the fact that there are many male comedians who play man-childs—man-childs is a word. I do think it’s fun to be able to play a character that’s in no way aspirational and in no way a role model, and the more female characters there are on-screen, there’s less pressure on every character to represent everyone. I love playing people who are flawed."
I think she makes an interesting point.Whether it's books, movies, or TV, there is more pressure for female characters to be inspirational and ground breaking. Why is "man-child" even a word, but "woman-child" has just been made up? Comedians like Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer have also recently played woman-child characters, so maybe it's becoming more of a thing.
On a different note, I recently got into a debate with my husband. I said that Katniss Everdeen was one of the meatiest female literary characters, ever. He disagreed, so I was like - okay, then who? He said Juliet and Lady Macbeth, but my cynical laughter quickly shut him down.
"They are simply there to support the male protagonist," I said. "I'm talking about female characters whose primary objective is not to be with, or to assist, a man."
Then he asked me for some other examples, and I had a hard time coming up with any. Scarlet O'Hara?
Maybe I'm just out of touch. Are things getting better, and more equal, for female roles/literary characters? What do you think?

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Standout Blog Tour Begins

CBB Promotions is hosting a blog tour for The Standout, and it started today! You can read reviews, excerpts, interviews, and guest posts, plus, you can enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card! Super Cool!!

For the full tour schedule, visit my blog tour page at CBB Promotions. Click here.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How Important Is The First Line?

“The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to realize the gravity of our situation.” (Secret History, 1)

That is the first line of one of my favorite novels of all time. The Secret History is also one of the most successful novels ever, and it launched the career of Donna Tartt, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her most recent book, The Goldfinch. I love that first line because it immediately drew me in. I’m wondering who Bunny is, and why did he die? I know the story takes place during winter, in the mountains, and I’m curious who this “we” is that the narrator speaks of, and what, exactly, is their situation?

I’ve heard that the first line is the most important line of your novel, and if it’s not absolutely fabulous, with a huge, explosive impact, agents and publishers will stop reading immediately. I find this sort of hard to believe, because I’ve read lots of novels with lackluster first lines, yet they turned out to be good books, nonetheless.

Still, as a writer I feel that first-line pressure. The first line of The Standout is “I wanted to jump, but I didn’t have the guts.” I guess this line was interesting enough to keep people reading, because my book got a nice amount of nominations on Kindle Scout, and it won a publishing contract. But I doubt it will go down in history of best first lines ever.

It’s a difficult balance. This week a story I wrote was being workshopped in the grad-school class I’m taking. Actually, it’s the first chapter of a novel, about a woman whose sister dies. I reveal that this sister dies right away. The revelation isn’t in the first line, but in the first paragraph, and that’s been the major criticism so far. They say it ruins the suspense. Since the sister dying is merely the inciting incident that leads to a much bigger, more suspenseful storyline, I figured it was okay. I mean, you have to draw your readers in immediately, right? But maybe I’m doing it wrong.

For the same class, we had an assignment to come up with five “first lines” of novels or stories. Here are mine:
  • Even before I opened that manila envelope, I knew my instructions would be to kill Tania, my one true love.
  • Abby can’t say what compelled her up those rickety old steps, through the crooked, unstable door and into that abandoned house, only to find a box of Stephen’s childhood photos.
  • First I smell the evergreens, then I open my eyes and see pine needles looming above me; is it sap that covers my naked body with mucous, or is it something more sinister?
  •   I never believed I could kill so carelessly, but things happen, and now I’ll never be free again.
  • Joanne used to laugh when Ryan said he knew voodoo, but that was before she dumped him, before she woke up the next day with appendicitis, before she inexplicably went blind in her left eye.

My instructor liked the last one best. If anyone would like to comment, I’d love to know your opinion. How important is the first line of a novel? Should it reveal the action, or does that ruin the suspense?