I Know What You Read Last Summer

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It’s the middle of August and the summer season is almost over. Goodbye to having your toes in the sand; goodbye to having your hands on the beach bar ordering a fishbowl from the bronze bartender; goodbye playing volleyball on the beach; goodbye to the summer sun making sure your skin isn’t pale. This is a tough time of year, but enjoy it while it lasts.

Before you move back to school or start staying in on the weekends, enjoy the rest of the summertime on the beach (or in your backyard) with a last minute summer read to keep you dreaming of the sun!

  • Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
    Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence,
    Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian Jetset; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.
  • The Island, by Victoria Hislop
    A richly enchanting novel of lives and loves unfolding against the backdrop of the Mediterranean during World War II, The Island is an enthralling story of dreams and desires, of secrets desperately hidden, and or leprosy’s touch on an unforgettable family.
  • Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty
    In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations [of] our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.
  • The Girls, by Emma Cline
    Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.
  • The Strings of Murder, by Oscar de Muriel
    1888: a violinist is brutally murdered in his Edinburgh home. Fearing a national panic over a copycat Jack the Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey. Frey reports to Detective “Nine-Nails” McGray, local legend and exact opposite of the foppish English inspector. McGray’s tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond belief…
  • The Fireman, by Joe Hill
    In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

The Task of Writing

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Writer’s block is far from fun for any writer. The thought of not being able to achieve a significant chunk of writing in one session after another holds so many creators back from moving forward with their novels. Sometimes writer’s block can be incredibly discouraging, pushing wordsmiths into a hole and often times leading them to give up their work. Most writers don’t actually want to give up their dreams, they just feel like they don’t have any other choice because every story idea they have doesn’t go anywhere. The Write Nook is here to help our readers put their fingers back on the keyboard and to get their ideas rolling again.

The best way to cure writer’s block is simple: keep writing.Famous authors recommend it, so you can do it, too.

To celebrate #WritingWednesday, we wanted to put together some fun writing prompts to kick start your creative brain. Let’s light a match and put it to the dimming flame together!

  • At a wake for a father, the estranged ex-wife slow dances with their son. Why does she dance with him, and what secret does she whisper in his ear as they dance? 
  • Your character goes to a psychic, who sets them up with some creepy foreshadowing.
  • Somebody’s knocking at the door. Somebody’s ringing the bell. Open the door and let them in, whoa…wait, it’s four AM. What’s going on? Who could it be?
  • This whole scene would be more interesting if someone had a hangover. And also, if they couldn’t remember last night.
  • Pirates attack and pillage. This is more fun if the story DOESN’T take place in the sixteenth century.

All of these prompts come from writing generators (and here, or there). These generators can provide some amusement as well as inspiration. The best part is if there is a comment section, writers tend to share what they’ve written. Those can be fun to read and potentially spark some inspiration, as well. Even with a writing generator, one can write a short story to merely exercise the brain-it doesn’t need to be your next masterpiece.

Now go get out of that writing slump and back in action!

Write on!

Judging A Book By Its Cover

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If you are travelling down the self-publishing path, then creating a book cover is going to be another part of your publishing journey. After walking through aisles and aisles of books at the local B&N, I started to notice the similarities amongst some of the genres. There’s a cycle a writer should keep in mind when creating the cover to their book. If you were the book, the process would go a little something like this:

  1. Get noticed by the potential reader browsing all your friends on the bookshelf or Amazon page.
  2. Either you’re picked up or clicked on, because you’re just that interesting.
  3. If you’re exactly what the potential reader wants, they’ll buy you.
  4. Of course, they’ll read you.
  5. After they’re done, they’re going to talk about you to other people. They’ll entice their peers with your inspiring and rich content.
  6. Let this process repeat.

But, how can you get to step one? A good cover takes a couple different factors into account. For a fiction novel, you won’t want to include too much text. The title, author name, and maybe an essential quote from the book or a shortened quote from a reviewer is more than enough to do the trick. When you add too much text, it becomes too much for a the reader to consume or it might reveal too much about your novel. This can cause the reader to quickly put your book back on the shelf or scroll onto the next book. Quick catchphrases or quotes can sometimes be a good subheading – but make sure it doesn’t go much beyond a sentence. If images help your novel pop, make sure the image used is significant to the plot of your novel. It becomes visually appealing when a story about a dog, has a dog on it (or whatever the story may be). When you pick the right image, a reader can get just as much information about your novel from just looking at the cover as they can from reading its summary.

Let’s use Caraval by Stephanie Garber as an example. The cover of Caraval is a happy medium between being too boring and too active. The bright white color font of the title pops out at you, so you are immediately drawn to the title. The lettering intertwines elegantly with the star design without being too intrusive, adding a little extra pizzazz without hindering your ability to read the text easily. The glittery stars within the star design, against the space background, flow together in a simple manner. When creating your cover, you want to reflect the story you’re telling. In Garber’s novel, her main character, Scarlett, must find her sister in five nights while being surrounded by magic and performances (therefore, the star design on the cover mirrors the nighttime or bursts of magic within the novel).

If you are a visual artist, as well as a wordsmith, you might want to take it upon yourself to create your own cover because you know the image you wish to convey to your readers better than anyone else. Or recruit someone you may know or a trusted cover designer to work with you to create the perfect cover that will bring your story to life. Regardless of how your cover is made, you want to be able to appeal to your readers and represent your book in an exceptional way that wouldn’t allow it to be looked over by browsers.

Is That Crazy Enough For Ya?

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In the ‘60s and ‘70s, women in literature were portrayed far differently than they are today. With today’s image of women, characters like Katniss Everdeen, Lisbeth Salander, Lucy Pevensie, Hermione Granger are some of our generation’s role models. They are praised for their strong will, independence, and successes. Prior to the creation of these characters, readers were often exposed to a different side of women: the crazy side.

Beware, there will be spoilers!

The first book we have is Valley of the Dolls by Jaqueline Susann. With this tale that follows the lives of three women, who are also dear friends of one another, one character truly stood out the most: Neely O’Hara. Her actions made me want to rip my hair out, shake some sense into her, and most of all throw my book across the room. She stands as one of the prime examples of how women have been mistreated in the entertainment business and how that shaped their future. Neely juggled drug addiction, alcoholism, weight gain/weight loss, along with attempted suicide on many occasions for a mere amount of attention from the media – and somehow still thrived. Her lowest point in the novel was when she had been admitted by her friend, Anne Welles, into an asylum for the insane after a suicide attempt that made her lose everything. She was deemed insane, but in reality she was just battling with severe anxiety due to her image in Hollywood being threatened by the newest, up-and-coming starlet. Instead of those around her trying to give her the appropriate resources for success, it was easier for them to put a false label on her problems and forget about them.

Another book, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, follows a woman in the 1950s during her stay at a mental hospital and tells the story of her recovery. Esther Greenwood reflects Sylvia Plath’s own journey after being diagnosed with depression. Plath’s trajectory to recapturing her mental stability takes the same dives as Esther’s, but instead of having a hopeful ending, Plath passed away by her own hand in 1963. The Bell Jar considers the treatment of women with mental illnesses, as well as having an optimistic view on recovery. For Esther, being a woman means being under constant pressures about marriage, being forced to not excel in the workforce, and her body only being a vessel for her future children. All things that many women take for granted today.

A third example is Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. The initial prognosis for the young Miss Kaysen was that she was living with depression. She was diagnosed by a psychiatrist she didn’t visit regularly or know. This lead to her admittance into McLean Hospital in 1967. Upon evaluation, the 18-year-old is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The most important aspect of Kaysen’s retelling of her life is how she describes the treatment within the hospital. She notices the difference between how the medical personnel treat the sane and the insane. She also takes the time to examine mental illness versus recovery. Having a first-hand account of what it was like to be a woman with a mental illness, really brings home the validity of the issues the previous novels highlighted. “Crazy” was a solution, an answer, rather than an illness.

The last novel on the list is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. The ‘70s did not treat the Lisbon sisters as well as many thought. The suicides revolved around the family of seven: Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon and their five girls. All five daughters had ultimately ended their own lives, but the start of it was with the youngest sister: Cecilia. After her initial attempt to end her life, she told the doctor that he didn’t know what it was like to be a 13-year-old girl. She felt alone and her heartbreak pushed her into a depressive state, but the ignorance of her parents forced her into a deeper hole than expected. Upon questioning, no one noticed whether the girls had or had not given off warning signs. The idea of this novel is to explore how their mental illness was overlooked by all members of the community, including the Lisbon parents. Education about these illnesses and what they look like has certainly come a long way. Something that used to not be talked about at all, is now not an uncommon topic among parents, friends, or co-workers.

All in all, female characters in literature have evolved to become more independent and stronger. Although our generation has been exposed to the more sane side of women, we needed the women who had succumb to the dark side of their minds; for the readers who could relate to their troubles, for the readers who need the realistic representation of the world written in a novel. Sometimes we need to know where we come from, the trials and tribulations, to see how we’re going to change where we go.