Reviews by Jane – A Wholesome Source of Great Book Reviews

I can’t go another day without once again mentioning Reviews by Jane. As you may or may not know, my previous blogs have gone the way of the dinosaurs thanks to my blundering administrative efforts. Part of my rebuilding efforts is to get Reviews by Jane back in my blogging inventory. I’m not directing you to this on-line book review site because I want you to rush out and read my reviews. I’m afraid you won’t find my titles mentioned here. Reviews by Jane deals in Christian books and books for teens and pre-teens, both fiction and non-fiction. Her premise is to “. . . review for those people out there who want to know what they’re giving their teenagers – and even themselves. I hope my reviews are insightful and helpful when choosing what to read and what to give to your children.”

Reviews by Jane

Reviews by Jane cares about young minds, a site mother’s can trust

As a child Jane was a vivacious reader but had to wait for her mother to read books first to determine if they were appropriate. As Jane could read much faster than her mother, it became a frustrating wait. Before long she decided that mothers needed help to find books that had already been reviewed by someone they could trust and who would tell them if the content was appropriate for their children. Reviews by Jane was born. This talented young lady, an aspiring author in her own right, built the website and began writing reviews. Now she reviews for a number of other online sites, including:

If you are looking for books for your children or grandchildren, or anyone of the age in which they still need to be protected, check out Reviews by Jane’s reading list. And keep an eye on this young lady as she blossoms into adulthood. You can be assured I’ll be watching her. Did I mention that she’s my granddaughter?

10 Online Resources for Writers

Is it a dark and stormy night or what?

Looking into the night - online resources for writers There are a number of links to online resources for writers that I keep on my desktop while I’m writing. They include several different kinds of dictionaries, of course, as well as Sun & Moon data, the Almanac, a name generator, and more. I’d love to learn what resources other writers use. Comment and let me know.

Dictionary Resources

dictionary.com & thesaurus.com – These are two great online resources. Go here to look up a word and you’ll find a whole lot more, from the visual thesaurus to the translator to a crossword solver, and even more in between. These rate the “Hey, Honey! Come look at this” award.

yourdictionary.com – This online dictionary isn’t bad. It comes with the usual bells and whistles and then a few things more. Worth checking out. Scroll to the bottom of the home page and you’ll find wildcard instructions for when you don’t know exactly how to spell the word you’re looking for.

Grammer Resources

Common errors in English is a site I keep available while I’m writing. It helps with things like lie/lay/lain/laid, which I can never remember, or how about ensure/insure/assure? Check it out. You may find yourself digging through completed manuscripts, wondering—hoping—you got it right.

Grammar Girl – Is it “dreamed” or “dreamt?” Can you start a sentence with “because?” There is a lot of interesting information here if you’re willing to take the time to poke around while ignoring the advertisements.

Date, Time, Sky & Weather Resources

Date & Time.com – This is one of those online resources I keep handy. If I have my coming-of-age character, Jack, kicking a can down the railroad tracks on July 14, 1962, and it’s a Saturday morning, I’d better check to be sure that date was actually a Saturday.

Sun and Moon data – If Jack is kicking that can down the railroad tracks at 3:30 in the morning, what is the status of the moon? Is it visible at all? What time will the sun rise?

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for weather history – It is dark, cold, and stormy that early Saturday morning. Jack, pack cinched tight to his back, loaded with his most treasured possessions, is bent forward against the wind, trying to keep the rain from driving into his face and down his neck. He kicks an old split-pea soup can a third time whereupon it bounces over the track and disappears into the weeds. He looks into the dark beyond where the tracks fade and then over at the one light illuminating the old depot. Shall he move on or take shelter? He trots over to the depot landing and slips under, pushing two beer cans and an animal’s leg bone­–he hopes–out of the way. With the assistance of his headlamp, he extracts his notebook computer, finds a Wi-Fi connection–how weird is that?– and looks up the weather history for this old railroad depot.  He opens his browser and types in http://www.almanac.com/weather/history/ and then enters Aberdeen, SD, July 14, 1962.  He wipes water from his face and waits; it is a very slow connection. He waits a while longer until finally . . . hold on a minute! It’s not raining and it is certainly not all that cold. He looks out at the railroad tracks and sure enough, it is dry. The weeds are undulating in the breeze. He crawls out and peers down the tracks. Shall he keep going or wait until daybreak? He could continue by moonlight. He checks his computer again, entering the address for the Sun and Moon data. Blasted anyway! The moon set an hour before and it is still another hour before twilight. What to do? What to do?

It may be that the weather accuracy and sun/moon data are not important to your story, but if you’re like me, you want the little things to be accurate so as to make the bigger things, like quantum teleportation or a Wi-Fi connection in 1962, more plausible.

Several Unique Online Resources for Writers

Grandiloquent Dictionary – A collection of the most obscure and rare words in the English language. You just never know when this might come in handy. Jack may have been haingling down the tracks, worried about his quatrayle, now concerned about zoonosis after touching that animal bone. This may or may not be helpful if you suffer from lethologica. A great online resource for writers, or for anyone interested in words.

Random Name Generator – An interesting place to scan the US Census data for names. Put in the number of names you want to see and then the obscurity level, and bingo, you have a nice list of new character names, or, as the site suggests, random names you can give to that special someone you meet at the bar. I think I’ll rename Jack to Dario Fellezs. He is running away because his step father makes fun of him, calling him Dairy because he is lactose intolerant. He’d rather live with his quatrayle.

What online resources do you keep handy? Comment and let everyone know.

The Entire Smilodon Trilogy (the Sabre-toothed Cats) is NOW OUT

Just released – the 3rd book in the Smilodon Trilogy.

For those who haven’t read the first two, here is a run down of all three Smilodon novels.

The original Smilodon was published in 2002. Notice that the cover has changed. Along with that came a thorough edit and re-edit of the entire book for typos and story consistency. Thus is the NEW and IMPROVED Smilodon.

SmilodonImagine recreating the saber-toothed cat for fun? The possibility sounds exciting, but the reality could be nightmarish. Within these pages you are drawn into in a world where man becomes the hunted. It is fast-paced fiction where cats change the rules and people run for their lives. “Tigers in the Wild” and a lucrative fee lure freelance writer, Zechariah Price, into the frozen mountains of Montana. The assignment drops him into a world of Bengal tigers, illegal aliens, prehistoric sabre-toothed cats, psychic premonitions and babies. As death by man and animal surrounds him, he quickly learns that he, too, is destined to become food for the cats. Trapped between man and beast, his assignment turns into that of survival. Welcome to a world where cats call the shots.

 

It is many years later and we want to know what has happened with Zach and his family. Did Tanya forgive him? Did either of his daughters, Rebecca and Christi, learn of the truth about what happened to their mother and father in Montana? I certainly wanted to know so I put my fingers to the keyboard to find out and before I knew it I had Sabre City.

Sabre CityAfter 8 years Zechariah Price assumes it is all behind him. Nightmares filled with huge sabre-toothed cats and women screaming still leave him in cold sweats, though less often. He had lost an eye the first time around; Tanya had fractured her back; their marriage had petered on the brink. There was no way he or any of his family was going to set foot in that Montana wilderness again. His 16-year-old daughter, however, decides otherwise and, in hopes of finding out what all the fuss was about when she was just a child, runs off to visit a Montana woman she found in a chat room. She discovers a lot more than she could have imagined, including who her father really was and how much she had inherited from him.

 

After that ending, holy moly I can’t believe what happened, I knew there had to be more. You can’t have a bunch of sabre-toothed cats wandering around Montana without something happening. And what about Reba? What’s with her? Curious, I woke up my computer and began, again, with the next book in the series, the one I would call The Last Sabre.

The last SabreThree weeks after her mother’s death, Rebecca (Reba) Price cannot stand the oppressiveness filling her Texas home. Her sister, aunt and maybe even her father blame her. She cannot disagree. Hacking into her father’s accounts she takes what she sees as her rightful inheritance and escapes to school in Montana. She convinces herself it’s not to be near where her mother died nor near the sabre-toothed cats. However, as her freshman year ends, she is drawn back into those mountains, only to discover that the plot, which drove her mother to sacrifice herself for her family, is alive and well. As the body count rises–human and sabre-toothed feline–Reba must call upon all her inner power to find a way to bring it to a final end.

 

 

Be sure to check out all my titles on Desert Bookshelf, Kindle, Nook, Sony and XinXii.

 

Who Remembers The Montauk Monster?

Montauk Monster
The Montauk Monster – Photo: Courtesy of Alanna Nevitski

One question I am sure to get anytime I do a reading or happen into a conversation with a non-writer about writing is, “Where are your sources of story ideas?” I ask you this: “What was that Montauk Monster that washed up on the Long Island beach back in 2008?” If you’re a writer of fiction or someone who often sits around and contemplates the “What if?”—much like what I did in junior high school which the teachers labeled daydreaming—you would probably be coming up with all kinds of ideas. Before you know it a short story or a novel would be brewing.Back around 2000 or 2001 I was watching the Discovery Channel. It was a piece on the 11,000-year-old sabre-toothed cat remains that had been found in southern California. At the end of the program there was speculation as to whether there was any viable DNA. At the time I lived in Montana. I began thinking about sabre-toothed cat DNA and Montana wilderness and how the two together could make a story. I daydreamed about 800 pound sabre-toothed cats bringing down elk, grizzly bears and, of course, man. That’s all I had in mind when I sat down at my laptop and began writing. I had no idea yet how this DNA would be discovered; nor did I know that it would fall into the hands of a wealthy entrepreneur with good intentions, good intentions that go awry. What I did have was faith, faith that once I created the first scene with the first character, that that character would lead to the next character, and the next, and that before I know it I would be sitting on the edge of my seat, eager to find out what was going to happen next. It led to the publication of my third novel, Smilodon. It has since led to a full-fledged trilogy, adding Sabre City and The Last Sabre.

Sources of story ideas are everywhere

Here are a couple of examples . . . I’m creating (day-dreaming) these as I write this blog.

#1 – My wife and I often go out for a walk in the desert not far from our southern Arizona home. In the middle of a dusty jeep track is a thirty-foot saguaro. (pronounced sa-war-o) The track—could be called a road—virtually splits around it. We wonder about this because a saguaro of this size is hundreds of years old; it was likely a youngster when the locally famous Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino (Jesuit Missionary who traveled from Italy to the Americas in 1689) left his footprints in our Pimeria Alta region (today’s southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico). Maybe he walked around this very cactus when it was knee high. Maybe he created the dirt track that we walk on. Maybe Padre Kino wasn’t the first Jesuit Missionary. Maybe he was preceded by another, Padre Romano, who discovered the lost city of gold and gave up his mission for riches. Maybe Padre Kino also found this lost city, and Padre Romano on his deathbed. Maybe . . .

#2 – True story: our neighbor was driving in Utah this summer when in the dark a bear jumped in front of her. She wasn’t hurt but needless to say the bear didn’t survive and her car required extensive repairs. End of true story. Now the what if. What if after she got out of the car and while waiting for the response to her 911 call, she heard an animal’s cry and with her flashlight spotted two young bear cubs in the trees? What if she comes back later with her son, who she has previously not been getting along well with because of his stand on the environment and animal rights, finds the cubs and brings them home? What if she is a state congresswoman against everything that her son stands for? What if . . . ?

#3 – There is an exit off of I-19 between Green Valley and Tucson, Arizona that goes nowhere. Both directions lead about fifty yards into the desert. What is the story behind this? What could one make up? Could it involve sex, money and death?

The point I’m trying to make is that story ideas are all around us.

They just need a daydreamer to turn them into a page-turner, edge-of-your-seat novel.

By the way, if you publish a novel based on any of these three ideas, don’t forget me in the dedication.

I’ve stopped writing and now I’m getting itchy fingers

In the words of fellow writer, Julie Anne Lindsey, in her blog, Musings From The Slush Pile, finishing a full manuscript is a monumental event. It is so monumental that after self-publishing my first three in 2002 I went on to finish another four full manuscripts (novels) over the following nine years. You might notice that publishing was not mentioned with those last four. The fact that I finished them was, at the time, monumental enough. With each one, my number 1 editor would devour it with red pen and highlighter in hand. I’d then make the repairs before burying it in the recesses of my digital cave. I’d idle for a while and then get itchy fingers, and start on the next one.

On May 5th of this year I finished the last of those four and decided it was time to clean up the digital cave, open the drapes, sweep out the cobwebs. It was time for some serious editing and formatting of all my titles.

“How is that working for you?” you ask.

Actually, it is working great. By the end of this year all 7 titles will be available on Kindle (4 titles are there now) as well as Nook and most of the other ePub readers, through Smashwords. For those still hooked on the feel of a book in their hands, trade paperback versions will be made ready for order through my website as they become available.

Below are listed all seven titles. They can be found on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, or, for trade paperback, my Author Website.

  • Elkhorn Mountain Menace (formally Angels in the Mist)
  • Smilodon Trilogy
    • Book 1 – Smilodon
    • Book 2 – Sabre City
    • Book 3 – The Last Sabre (to be released September 1, 2011)
  • Before Anne After Series
    • Book 1 – Before Anne After
    • Book 2 – Time Will Tell (to be released October 1, 2011)
  • Lost and Forgotten (release date to be announced)

As I wrap up the last one I find my fingers are, once again, getting itchy. I’ve made mental and digital notes of new story ideas and am becoming anxious to explore the possibilities.

It is time to start scratching.

Characters and Timelines

Using post-it notes for characters and timelines What methods do you employ in your novels to keep to keep your characters and timelines, as well as scenes and events, straight? How do you make sure when you give a character green eyes in chapter 3 that you didn’t give her blue eyes in chapter 30, or that you don’t have your villain driving a ’98 Ford Explorer in one scene and a ‘98 Ford Expedition in another? My personal faux pas was when I used my daughter’s middle name for a character. Sometimes I spelled it, “Aileen” and other times, “Eileen.” And of course it was my daughter who pointed it out. I hope she’s forgiven me.

We all have our methods of tracking characters and timelines. What is yours?

Here is how I did it in one instance, and, in part, how I do it today.

The second novel I finished was just over 200,000 words. I know, I know; too long for a new novelist, but there it was. Anyway I had numerous characters in two different time periods, 44 years apart.  It’s a time travel, after all. Some characters appeared in both times, 1943 and 1987, plus there was a back-story on one character that reached back to 1914. There came a point when I kept losing track of when my characters did things. Let’s see, when did Nate first meet Hitler and then save his life? 1922? As I write this I cannot remember, but all I would have to do is go into the closet behind the winter coats and the old suits which I’m sure I’ll be able to fit into one day, and behind the dress Navy whites I know will come in handy eventually (it’s only been 27 years), push aside three pairs of shoes from a different century, the bowling ball (Pull it out of the bag to see if my fingers are any fatter; it’s only been 31 years), poke aside the two dead spiders and kill the live one, and then lay my hand on the rolled up, squished, dented and coffee stained timeline diagram I created somewhere around 2002.

Since the few dollars here and the couple of dollars there that I received on my three published novels barely kept my wife and me in fast food once a month, I needed to keep a day job. (I’ve since retired) That job happened to be as a graphic designer and desktop publisher. At the time that I was working on the novel that contained Nate and Hitler, Before Anne After, I was in charge of the wide format (poster) printer for my employer. Since I had the skills and the equipment, I built a timeline, printed it out on the wide format and tacked it to the wall over my desk at home. Presto!! My characters and timelines in my face. It was three and a half feet tall and five feet long. I left enough blank space that I could pencil in new characters. To do this last part I would spread it out on the floor, thus the reason for the coffee stains, or was that wine? Smell . . . lick . . . taste . . . yuk! Not important.

Now that I have the poster spread open, when did Nate meet Hitler and save his life? It was . . . you’ll have to read the story . . . Before Anne After.

The wide-format characters and timelines printout solved only part of my “keep things straight” problem. In addition to the poster, at the end of my working word file I maintained a Glossary of characters. I work in MS Word and use styles and the document map (like an index) to navigate my novel-in-progress. Each of the chapter numbers is listed in the document map. If for some reason I want to return to chapter 12 all I have to do is click on it. In addition to numbered chapters, I maintain other chapters, one of which is called “Characters.”  In here are listed all my major and minor characters and their attributes. If a character suddenly reveals to the protagonist that he hasn’t gotten over his son dying five years before, I add the son to my list of characters (even if he never actually appears in the story) along with a description of his death, and then add appropriate details to his father’s attributes.

In addition to “Characters,” other supporting chapters are “research” (primarily made up of web links where I’ve conducted research) and “ideas” (bits of scene ideas that I might use later, usually just a line or paragraph). In the sequel to Before Anne After, titled Time Will Tell (to be released later this year) are supporting chapters titled, “Irish sayings” because there is an Irish character who likes to quote Proverbs (there are nearly 40 proverbs stored there in case he should suddenly need one) and “British slang” to support several British characters.

I hear it already. “I’m not a desktop publisher and figuring out Word is a nightmare.”

That’s why I’m asking for input from other writers. I do admit that the huge timeline was probably a bit of overkill, but at the time it did what I needed it to do. I have since better organized my supporting chapters and am meticulous, almost, at keeping it up to date.

Again, what is your method of tracking characters and timelines? Post-it notes on the wall? A 3-ring binder full of descriptions? Comment to this post and I’ll share it with all.

Who is Dusty Books?

James Paddock

Dusty Books is not about dusty books… or at times it can be if we are talking about a book that has been on the shelf gathering dust for some time. You could say it is about books we have read which now gather dust, or it is about some of us with more years behind us than ahead, who are maybe just sitting around with a lifetime of stories within us gathering our own dust. Dusty Books is the news platform for Desert Bookshelf Publishing, a small business owned and operated by the writer of this blog, James Paddock… author, novelist, entrepreneur, husband, father and grandfather of many beautiful and intelligent children. I’d mention how many but every time I turn around there seems to be another one.

A retired (2011) graphic designer, my passion is writing novels, recently finishing number 9. I will be introducing them in future blogs. Meanwhile, check out my online newspaper, James Paddock Writing Daily. A new issue hits the digital press about 1:00 PM every day. I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Keep reading, keep writing, keep having fun.

Dusty Books is Back

Most of you probably never realized that Dusty Books, the Desert Bookshelf Blog, was gone. I attempted to update my web host as well as blog host and wound up destroying the entire blog. I may be able to recreate most of the posts, or the ones that were worthwhile anyway, so for the next few days/weeks there are going to be a number of posts that may look familiar. Not to worry. I’ll attempt to sprinkle in some new content along the way.

For those who use RSS feeds to receive these blog updates, be sure to reset your feed. The old one will not work. Click on the RSS feed symbol at the top of this page.