Books: 5000 Words Per Hour

5,000 WORDS PER HOUR: Write Faster, Write Smarter
© 2015 by Chris Fox

In preparation for NaNoWriMo I’ve been rereading this short, motivational e-book. The writer gives his system for improving your writing skills to the point you’re whacking out 5000 words per hour. Can you see yourself doing that?

Motivation is a powerful force, he says. And he knows, because he’s motivated himself to lose 100 pounds and write a dozen novels plus half a dozen other books on writing and editing. So he’s not just whistling Dixie. He has developed this system and shares it because it has worked for him.

We start with short writing practices or sprints, typing without pausing to edit in any way, including correcting typos. Here’s where I digress. While I see merit in what he’s saying, I simply must correct my spelling mistakes. (I make one or two for every ten words.) If it slows me down, so be it.

He advocates using the same “sprint” system for editing. Don’t agonize over each word during the first edits. This thought helped me a lot. I tend to want Chapter One perfect before I move on to Chapter Two. I never do get to the last chapter.

Anyway, as you practice every day and chart your progress, he promises you’ll see improvement in both speed and also your ability to plot out your scenes in advance and catch your writing flaws. By the way, this author once a pantser who rarely finished a manuscript, is now a confirmed plotter. You need to be one to crank out this much content without stopping to wonder, “Now what happens next?”

I’d encourage any writer to read his book and see what you think. Some of us older ones are so set in our ways I’m not sure it will make a lot of difference — but they say you can always learn something new.

Even if you don’t get past, say 2000 words an hour, you’re still going to ace NaNoWriMo, where you need to do just over 1670 words a day for a month to get your 50,000 words Winner’s Badge. I did a fifteen-minute sprint and my word count was 650 words, which would give me 1300 words in half an hour — spelled right. 🙂

Practice every day, the author says. That’s the ticket.

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Books by Cindy Bell

Something Old, Something New — Part B

Author Cindy Bell has written a number of cozy mysteries and has several series on the go. I’ve read and liked four of her Dune House Cozy Mystery Series. I’d rate them at about 3.5 stars. She’s up to #11 in The Dune House series and her Sage Gardens series now.

I’ve also read three of her Heavenly Highland Inn Cozy Mystery Series and was rather unimpressed. Drama, but not a lot of logical behavior by the main characters. I see she has put out #7 in this series now. Bekki the Beautician is up to Book #14; there are four books in the Wendy, the Wedding Planner series plus a couple newer series just starting. So whatever else one might say about her, she’s certainly been prolific.

I find her books quite light reading, very simple plots. In the few I’ve read she tends toward stereotype characters rather than developed emotional ones. Behavior isn’t always very logical to human nature. Writing is pretty simple, too. However, she has lots of 4- and 5-Star reviews on Amazon.com.

The book I’m reviewing here, a relatively new one for this writer, I downloaded as a freebie and have given my honest opinion. Someday I may read more in the series just to see if the characters start to behave more like normal people in later books.

Birthdays Can Be Deadly (Sage Gardens Cozy Mystery Book 1)
by Cindy Bell
(Feb 2015)

James, a resident of Sage Gardens retirement community, dies suddenly during his birthday party. The official word is that he died of a heart attack, but three other don’t accept this story and set out to discover the truth.

The story starts out with a lot of narration, the writer telling us about the characters and what they are thinking. IMO the story would be quite improved by showing us, through the use of dialog and sharp action, instead of a lot of flat statements. So much narrative, done in short sentences, makes the book’s opening chapters rather boring. For example:

“Walt always felt at ease around Samantha. She never forced him to do anything, but he always ended up doing anything that she asked. When he had first moved into Sage Gardens she brought him a basket of muffins to welcome him. He appreciated that each was individually wrapped, and there were exactly six. He liked things to be even. She had struck up a conversation and Walt had been surprised that he didn’t mind her company. Instead he found it to be quite enjoyable.”

As the story unfolds the action does speed up and dialogue replaces so much telling, but the characters, especially the retired cop, are unrealistic, overly scowling, self-righteous and yet breaking the law himself. Bullying people into confessing may be standard fare on police dramas, but it isn’t natural or likely in a casual setting where people don’t have to talk.

“Make them mad enough and they’ll spill it all,” is the theory. So the amateur sleuth gets in suspects’ and witnesses’ faces, demanding, insulting, infuriating, and the victim tells everything they know. I sure wouldn’t! Maybe writers do this to save the sleuth some tedious detective work? It definitely shortened this story.

The ending scene seems overly melodramatic and not very well thought out. A reader has to suspend a lot of common sense in order to swallow this scene as written, especially the part about an intelligent man thinking he can dispose of evidence by throwing it out the window.

I’m giving this book three stars. As light, easy reading and as a mystery, it’s average. It could be better written and the characters could be more believable, but if a reader likes touches of melodrama and isn’t too worried about realism or legalities, this story works

Books: Stand In The Wind

Something Old, Something New — Part A

This book has been around a long time, but is well worth reading:

Stand in the Wind
© 1975 by Jean Little
Puffin Books

Martha, the protagonist of the story, wanted so badly to go to summer camp and be with her friends. However, she’s an impulsive girl. A mad dash into the kitchen, followed by a sudden slip and bone-cracking fall, puts an end to her plan. The camp won’t accept her with a newly broken arm.

Then she and her older sister Ellen, find their plans change drastically. They were supposed to go to the city with their parents and younger brothers to hang out with the daughters of their mom’s best friend. But in a sudden flip, they find themselves stuck at the family cottage entertaining these two other girls. Snooty Rosemary, the elder, and her mousy baby sister Christine — or Kit, as her Dad calls her — couldn’t be more different from each other, or from Ellen and Martha.

The first day together is a total flop as the four of them realize their differences are too great to ever be friends. So now what? they decide to stick it out for three days. “Just until Wednesday,” they remind themselves, then their mothers are coming back to get them and end the icy silence.

Meanwhile, the girls make attempts to bear with each other. There are fireworks at times but little by little they loosen up and let their hair down. This book details their adventures and disasters as they cope with each other and with the circumstance of being without parental supervision.

Jean Little has penned a number of winning children’s books and this is one of them. Well written, well told, very believable, and a satisfying conclusion.

Books: Reed Ferguson, PI

This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies
The Reed Ferguson Mystery Series, Book 1

by Renee Pawlish
Click here to view on Amazon.com

Reed Ferguson has always wanted to be a Private Eye and it looks like he’s finally getting his chance. Thanks to an inheritance from his grandparents he’s opened an office and hung out his shingle. Being a devoted fan of Humphrey Bogart and noir detective movies he hangs up a poster of Bogie and Lauren Bacall, as they appeared in The Big Sleep, on his wall “as a sort of inspiration.”

Enter his first real customer: a woman with a missing husband. Peter Ghering disaappeared on a business trip and his wife, Amanda, claims she wants him found. But does she really? Reed has some serious doubts by the time he’s heard her story. An inner voice is telling him to fear this femme fatale, but it’s his first real case, his first serious crack at being a professional gumshoe.

At least he tried to be professional but he’s new to this game and his skills are pretty amateur. Long on bravado, short on forethought. To complicate matters, what starts out as a simple investigation opens up a writhing can of worms for the new Sam Slade wanna-be. The wife hasn’t been up-front with all the facts; she’s actually hired him to expose the women her husband’s been dallying with on his business trips. Little by little Reed uncovers a plot and subplot that would tax Philip Marlowe’s private eye skills.

What really happened to the successful businessman? What will happen to his wife, who wanted him to disappear so she could inherit? And what will happen to Reed if he continues to be involved in this case? Some late night visitors make it plain that they won’t tolerate his efforts to ferret out the truth.

A very well written, well edited book. The writer obviously knows her craft and has constructed a plot that will keep a reader up late at night trying to find out how this story ends. No erotic or immoral scenes in this book, but some off-color language.

I’ve read several books now by this same author and one thing I do like about them is the paucity of dead bodies. There are some, but in the books I’ve read Reed mostly engages in finding lost spouses, pets (The Maltese Felon), etc. In that sense these stories remind me of the Hardy Boys. So if you like a tamer “noir fiction,” tones of Bogie mixed with the wit of Peter Falk and the impulsive courage of Frank & Joe Hardy, you will probably like this series.

Personal Note:
Up late last night typing up this book review when, around midnight, I started to notice a skunk-ish aroma. It grew increasingly powerful, must have had a disagreement with some other critter very nearby so we spend a pretty restless night trying to escape the smell. And with the temp outside almost freezing, you don’t open windows to air things out. 🙂

We’re also besieged by box elder beetles, a.k.a. “maple bugs.” They summer outdoors and once cool weather comes, thousands of them crawl into houses and other warm places to spend the winter. We vacuum them up steadily but there are always a dozen more when we look again.

Burying my head under the covers last night, I was wishing the skunk odor would at least fumigate the bugs. 😦

Knowledge

by Archibald Lampman

What is more large than knowledge and more sweet;
Knowledge of thoughts and deeds, of rights and wrongs,
Of passions and of beauties and of songs;
Knowledge of life; to feel its great heart beat
Through all the soul upon her crystal seat;
To see, to feel, and evermore to know;
To till the old world’s wisdom till it grow
A garden for the wandering of our feet.

Oh for a life of leisure and broad hours,
To think and dream, to put away small things,
This world’s perpetual leaguer of dull naughts;
To wander like the bee among the flowers
Till old age find us weary, feet and wings
Grown heavy with the gold of many thoughts.

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Book & quote

Travel Tales from Exotic Places

BOOK REVIEW

Travel Tales from Exotic Places Like Salford

by Julian Worker

I received a copy from Story Cartel a few years back and posted this review on my blog, Christine Composes. I’ll reprint my thoughts for the benefit of new readers who may not have heard of this interesting book — which is still available on Amazon and Kobo.

You need to take your time with this book, savoring it like chocolate truffles, and it’s set up in sections so you can do that. Rather than using chronological order the writer divides his book geographically, describing spots tourists would most likely want to visit and giving directions on how to get there, as well as some encounters he’s had with the locals.

Mr Worker gives some historical background as well as thorough details of the area he’s writing about. By the time I was done reading about some of these places I was ready to pack my bags and go! His description of the soccer/football match had me cheering, too, though I have no interest in that sport. And his last few pages about his trials with customs inspectors and linguistic misunderstandings made me chuckle.

I found this book intelligently written, well crafted and well edited. The writer shows due respect and sensitivity to various cultures and customs. If you enjoy visiting other countries or reading about others’ travels, you will really enjoy this book.

I notice the author has done another travel book as well, titled Julian’s Journeys.