Recommended Read: Killer Instinct, by Zoe Sharp

Killer Instinct by Zoe SharpI’m supposed to be reading my George Elliot for book club (having bad flashbacks to English lit) and I’m really intrigued by Restless, by William Boyd, an author I have loved in the past.

But I was in the mood for some good old-fashioned action adventure and was pleased to see British author Zoe Sharp offering the first book in her Charlie Fox series, Killer Instinct, free on Kindle. I’ve read Zoe’s short story collection Fox Five and really enjoyed it, and I also like her posts on Murderati so I downloaded KI.

Really glad I did. Zoe is an excellent writer. A few of her pithy turns of phrase had me green with envy. I know I’ll go back and read KI with an eye to improving my own writing. But yesterday I was totally immersed in the story, glad of my cold so I had an excuse to stay in bed.

I finished last night at 2:30 and had a hard time not immediately starting book 2 in the series, Riot Act. (Damn early-rising kids.)

You can read my full review of Killer Instinct on Amazon or at GoodReads (same review).

If you like a good suspense story with lots of action, give Charlie a try.

Update: March 12, 12:36am. I just finished reading book 2 in the series, Riot Act, and it’s every bit as good, if not better, than Killer Instinct. I’ve already downloaded Hard Knocks, the next in this terrific series.

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Underwear synopsis for NaNoWriMo book done

Last week, I set the goal to finish the “underwear synopsis” (I’ll explain shortly) of my NaNoWriMo book by midnight Sunday. I closed the file this morning at 1:36 am. Not bad.

I’m feeling positive. The structure I’ve sketched looks solid. The support posts seem to be in all the right places. I don’t have a detailed blueprint yet, and there will still be much to unearth during the first, “discovery” draft in November but at least I know where I’m going to break ground.

Finding the balance between the left and right brain, the creator and critic is always the struggle for me. I can’t be a totally fly-into-the-mist pantser because useless meandering frustrates me. But over-planning is a joy-killer, too.

Right now I’m pretty jazzed about bestselling author and ghostwriter Roz Morris’ new book Nail Your Novel: Why writers abandon books and how you can draft, fix and finish with confidence.  

I haven’t finished it yet—a good thing. I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard.

The underwear synopsis mentioned above is task 5 in Roz’s plan to nail your novel. Designed for your eyes only it’s not at all like the selling synopsis you’ll write later. You write this one as though you were explaining the story to a friend (so like there’s this part where a lion’s looking at him and he thinks if I ever get out of here alive…).

The synopsis is populated with story events and character notes you come up with through a couple of brainstorming and index card exercises disguised as engaging games.

So far there’s nothing shockingly new in Ms. Morris’s book. You’ll have read much of the advice before. It’s her approach and engaging writing that stand out.

She knocks the whispering doubters and critics off your shoulders and stands behind you with practical, encouraging advice. She demystifies and simplifies the process of developing your story, testing the strength of your idea and flushing out characters. She helps you rekindle the initial excitement you had in your ideas and characters and makes you feel confident about carrying them through to “The End.”

I’ll report more as I work through my first draft. I’m following Morris’s advice to let the underwear synopsis sit for a month. I’ll review for major potholes in the week prior to NaNo.

I know I’ll be madly scribbling notes all month, though. I’m so energized about my book. I feel really connected to it and the girls in the basement are handing up lots of juicy stuff.

How’s your NaNo planning going?


I curse you (and kiss you) George RR Martin!

I finished reading A DANCE WITH DRAGONS last night. Everyone in my house is doing the happy dance because it means Mommy is coming out the cave Mr. Martin and I have been in for the last two months. 

I watched all of HBO’s A GAME OF THRONES, season 1,  in a marathon session back in July while my man was away. Loved it! (I’m a huge Sean Bean fan for one). Wanted to see how it compared to the books, so I downloaded the first book on July 15. Wow! I was immediately sucked in. It took me two weeks to read A GAME OF THRONES and the same for book two. I’ve devoured the last three in a week each. (No mean feat with two kids (3 and 6), and a testament to Martin’s storytelling power.)

I haven’t glommed onto a series like this in years. I already want to re-read book one to catch all the nuances I missed as I was racing headlong ahead to find out what happened. This urge rarely strikes. The only other series I have read over (and over) again are Dorothy’s Dunnet’s Lymond Chronicles (the first of which is coincidentally titled THE GAME OF KINGS) and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I bought all the Martin novels on my Kindle, so I’ll need to get hard copies.

I’m deeply distressed that I now have to wait months (optimistically) or years (more likely) to find out if …..(shut your eyes if you haven’t finished ADWD yet)….Jon Snow lives or dies. And is he really the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar?

And how does one go back to their own tepid manuscript after reading a master at work? Probably the number one takeaway for me was that I need to be a LOT harder on my characters. Martin tortures his without a blink and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

But if he kills Jon Snow, I’m done.

Today’s writing progress and a tip: I flushed out an idea for a novella with a mind map today. I’ll write more on mind maps another day. I see them as a middleground between plotting and pantsing.

Tip: My guru for mind-mapping and all sorts of other wonderful techniques to write faster and stronger is Daphne Gray-Grant, aka The Publication Coach. Daphne has a great weekly newsletter with writing tips and inspiration. It’s aimed primarily at corporate writers, but there’s lots there for fiction writers too.