"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Literary Travels and Inspiration

This is the time of year that my family starts planning and taking trips. We all enjoy traveling, the sun, and being together.

Of course, I usually try to work in a few literary stops along the way. Anything from where an author stayed or lived, to towns or building mentioned in favorite stories are options on my list. Our travels usually inspire my own writing as well. We haven't decided for sure what we are doing this year yet, although several options have been shared.

Below you can see a few of our literary inspired wanderings:

Literary Travels:
17 New Orleans French Quarter Literary Hot Spots
26 Days of Literary Scotland
7 Austin, Texas Literary Locations
10 Italian Literary Hot Spots
10 Places You Can Drink Like Your Favorite Writer
10 Reading Venues Worth a Visit
7 Literary Locations to Visit With Kids
5 Writers Homes for Literary Vacations
Poe Museum

How about you? Do you enjoy travel? What have been some of your favorite locales? Have any of them inspired your own stories?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

3 Ways to Surprise Your Reader with an Unexpected Villain

You don’t want your stories to be too obvious, or your reader won’t finish them. The audience needs to be challenged and surprised to want to continue reading. One of the best ways to do this is to camouflage your villains.
I’ve written several times about strengthening my own villains, and techniques I’ve used to show the antagonists deceit, cunning, and manipulation. The truth is, you don’t always recognize the bad guy – in real life or in fiction. The ones who surprise you can often be the scariest ones of all. Remember that when creating your own tale.
Here are a few ways to hide your villain in plain sight so you can surprise, thrill, and excite your reader. WARNING – Possible spoilers may be offered as examples.
1)      Charming and lovable – how often do we hear people on the news claiming “he was a likable guy” or “we never would have thought him capable of...” Most forms of evil have an appealing coating. Very seldom is it visually evident such as in a cartoon. You usually can’t tell a person is bad right away because they have learned how to cover their goals with social skills, good looks, or carefully designed acts to impress. They have learned to make themselves likable or lovable when they are really cruel, selfish, and even downright wicked. When you create your own villain, what is their goal and what would they do to ingratiate themselves to achieve that end? Think of Hans in Frozen or Loki in Thor.
2)      Friend not foe – readers don’t usually expect the villain to be close to the hero. Certainly, they don’t expect it to be someone who has been helping the hero up to this point. Ulterior motives can often put the bad guy in proximity of, if not outright partnering with, the main character. This villain might be a mentor, friend, or family member. Readers shouldn’t be able to see the hidden agenda until the reveal. Think about Magneto’s character in the X-Men universe or the end of Doctor Strange.
3)      Harmless or Incompetent – the bumbling and clumsy idiot, fool in a wheelchair, or victim in a coma can’t possibly be the villain, right? WRONG! We expect the bad guy to be strong, or at least able-bodied. However, don’t forget they are deceitful. Of course they will “hide in plain sight”. Think about Unbreakable or the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Remember, the best villains have learned to become whatever suits their purpose best. These dark crusaders of injustice can appear kind, heroic, or inept. The more your reader likes you character, the less likely they will be to recognize them as a villain until the end. They won’t want them to be the bad guy, but it will make sense once they see the whole picture.
Have you ever read a book, or watched a movie, where the identity of the villain totally surprised you? Which one was your favorite?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

IWSG: Spring Inspiration

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

MAY QUESTION: It's spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

MY ANSWER: Yes, and no. I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so the fact that we are finally getting more sunshine is a huge boost to my energy level, and subsequently my motivation to write. However, I also have seasonal allergies so I spend a lot of this time of year itchy, sneezy, and somewhat miserable. At times, the severity of my reaction to mother nature has sent me to bed heavily drugged, dizzy, and extremely ill. So, while I thrive on the return of sunnier days and beautiful blooms, sinus issues can often interfere with productivity. 

How about you? Does Spring inspire you to create more frequently?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Prayer Map for Women

This is the first journal I have received in the “Prayer Map” series so I don’t know how it compares to others.

LIKES – this journal is roughly 5x8 inches making it small enough to carry with you either by hand, or in a bag. The spiral binding makes it incredibly easy to flip through. There is guided prayer prompts and daily verses offering you a chance at a relationship with the Lord.

DISLIKES – the small size limits the amount of space in which you can write your thoughts. There are only enough pages for roughly 90 days. EVERY single page spread is exactly the same with no differences other than any you add with the exception of a different verse mentioned each day. Since the title declares this to be a “creative journal”, I expected room to “create”, “draw, or doodle”, or maybe even a few coloring pages. None of that is included, nor is there room to add any of those things. The only thing you are creating is a fill in the blank prayer.

Overall, this is a decent publication for anyone new to praying, or looking for help in guided prayer. However, I do not see myself getting any more of these.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

The Pirate Bride

Can a former privateer and a determined heiress find lost treasure in 1725? A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees. Pasts Collide in New Orleans when a Treasure Goes Missing The last time New Orleans attorney Jean-Luc Valmont saw Maribel Cordoba, a Spanish nobleman’s daughter, she was an eleven-year-old orphan perched in the riggings of his privateering vessel proving herself as the best lookout on his crew. Until the day his infamy caught up with them all and innocent lives were lost. Unsure why he survived but vowing to make something of the chance he was given, Jean-Luc has buried his past life so deep that no living person will ever find it—until a very much alive and very grown up Maribel Cordoba arrives on his doorstep and threatens all he now holds dear. 

I was so very disappointed in this book. Don’t get me wrong – Y’Barbo is a talented author, but the description for this book is misleading and the pacing of much of the tale is all wrong.

First, the title and description are misleading as no marriage ever takes place in the book.

Second, the heroine is a preteen for more than half of the novel, and doesn’t meet the hero again until near the end when an awkward and rushed romance ensues.

Third, many of the actions of other characters take place “off stage” only to be awkwardly and unrealistically summed up by others.

Fourth, I didn’t like or relate to ANY of the characters from Maribel’s family (real, or adopted).

Fifth, while I did enjoy the first half to two-thirds of the book (I loved Maribel and Jean-Luc’s characters as well as their interactions) I was disappointed this is advertised as a romance, but the heroine isn’t even an adult until near the end when she finally reconnects with the hero.

Sixth, I found the pacing, plot, and characters for the very beginning of the book and that last third of the book completely unbelievable.

Overall, this story had so much potential, but feels like an early draft rushed to publication.
This is the second book in “The Daughters of the Mayflower” series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone tale.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Potter and Shakespeare Fun

Last week I mentioned throwing literary parties. I shared links to a few I've had in the past, and let you know I was about to host a "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" party. Here is the link to a few pictures from that party if you are interested: My Harry Potter World Party

Also, in case you haven't heard, today is "National Talk Like Shakespeare Day". It's observed on April 23, in honor of the author's birthday. To learn more about this celebration, check out the official site at: http://www.talklikeshakespeare.org/

About six years ago, I shared my own interest in Shakespeare in an article at Southern Writer's Magazine. You can check that out here: For the Love of Shakespeare.

For other great reads, Shakespeare fans should check out:

25 Romances for Shakespeare Fans
English, Irish, and Scottish Poetry
All the World's a Stage: Great Drama

Do you enjoy themed parties? What was your favorite? Are you a Shakespeare fan? Will you be celebrating today? 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Party Like the Book...Again

About five years ago I wrote a post Party Like the Book in which I shared my love for planning literary themed parties. If you read my original post, you can find links to 10 different examples (both mine and others) of book themed parties.

My enjoyment and execution of this idea has not diminished over time. I still enjoy them, and have planned a few more. I am currently planning a "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" themed party. I include "Wizarding World of..." because I'm including touches of "Fantastic Beasts", fan fiction inspired ideas, and "Unofficial Harry Potter" ideas in this party. I'll share pics and more info later.

For now, if you'd like to see more examples of my parties:

What Makes a Rainbow - young children LOVE rainbows, and this book especially. Here are pics of some of our "colorful" fun: https://www.pinterest.com/sylvianey/my-what-makes-a-rainbow-party/

Wonderland Tea Party – My girls are both fans of Lewis Caroll’s Alice. We've actually used this one several times. Here are some pictures of our party designs: http://pinterest.com/sylvianey/my-alice-tea-party/

Dr. Seuss – This party can be adapted to a single Seuss book theme such as Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, Lorax, etc. Here are some pictures from the party for my girls: http://pinterest.com/sylvianey/my-dr-seuss-party/
Have you planned a Book Themed Party? Ever attended one? What theme would you love to see?