Monday, May 30, 2011

"In the Mirror" by Ann Carbine Best

It's not very often a memoir is written that compares favorably to two of the best memoirs I've ever read: Lost In America by Sherwin Nuland and Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Ann Carbine Best's In the Mirror shares the best qualities of each: honesty, candor, superior writing, shocking truths, and emotional depth that won't allow you to stop reading.

Best's prose reflects the shocks life continually deals her, shocks that would numb any person to her own feelings. Not one, not two, but three battles she has to fight, any one of which could defeat her. But her bravery, her Mormon faith, her willingess to love even those who seemingly do not love her, carries her to victory. Her stoicism in the face of adversity, her turbulent emotions held in check, permeate every sentence.

"I got home from work and found Larry talking on the phone. He looked startled when he saw me." So begins the bizarre saga of her marriage. The candor of her emotions is heartbreaking. The coldness of some of those she loves filters subtly through the narrative. Despite the odds against her, she never gives up. "I think I'm getting used to saying goodbye to people I love." Ann's life is one of constant deception, but she handles it with charity and forgiveness, and in the end she can say, "It was a beautiful day, the sky almost cloudless and so blue that I thought if I looked hard enough I might see my face reflected in it."

In the Mirror reflects Ann Best's life clearly--a bittersweet life you'll never forget.

In the Mirror is published by WiDo Publishers and is available on

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Matanzas Bay" by Parker Francis

I'm not a big fan of murder mysteries, but being from northeast Florida, and having been to St. Augustine many times, and also having met the author a couple of times, I wanted to read his latest book, a self-published ebook, on my Kindle. With a few exceptions on Goodreads, I've never reviewed a book before. So this is a first for me.

I was pleasantly surprised by the novel Matanzas Bay by Parker Francis. The writing is crisp and engaging. Wit and humor show through a number of passages. For example, "...and he stared at me as though I was a cockroach crawling over his Christmas ham."  And, "...I couldn't remember the last time I'd been hit on by an eighty-year-old woman." And there is a witty exchange between the main character and his girl friend that involves the titles of some of Shakespeare's plays.

As far as the mystery element goes, I didn't know who the murderer was until near the end, and then I wasn't sure until it actually came out.

The plot is complex, intriguing, and plausible.

On the negative side there are a number of editorial errors, at least in my edition. On this point, I give the book a grade of 'B' (a few errors, but doesn't affect the story).

I wish the author had given more descriptions of St. Augustine. He mentions many of the famous historical sites and their historical significance. But he doesn't paint a picture for us. Except for the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and the Matanzas Bay National Monument, which figure prominently in the story, they are just landmarks in his book.

Overall, I would recommend this book to a mystery buff. On that level it works very well. The characters are well drawn, and their interrelationships are masterful. Francis Parker has a talent for telling a good story. I look forward to reading his next mystery.

Matanzas Bay is available on and Barnes &

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Reviews

As a self-published writer for ebooks, I want to become involved in reading other self-published ebooks and reviewing them. I'll leave the traditionally published books to others to review.

I feel a self-published ebook has to be looked at on two levels.

The first is the story itself. Does it work? Is it intriguing? Does it draw me in and keep me reading until the end? And how has the author handled all the basic elements of his craft?

The second level is the editing of the book. Has it been done successfully? I'll use a grading system for that:

A = no errors
B = a few errors, but doesn't affect the story
C = a few errors, and they effect the story
D = many errors that are distracting and affect the story
E = should never have been published

Monday, May 23, 2011

Publish Your Book for Free on (4)

My book Battles and other stories has been available on Kindle and Smashwords for about three months now. I've sold 6 copies altogether. I've done very little promotion. Primarily, I've set up pages on Facebook and mentioned the book on my home page on Facebook once, I think, and I've mentioned it a few times on my blog. Oh, yes, I've mentioned it two or three times on AgentQueryConnect, in which I received some helpful feedback from RC Lewis, who downloaded the book to her devices and gave me tips. That's about it. I'm very happy with the results in the sense that I got my book out there, and I've learned quite a bit in preparation for self-publishing my novel later this year. I have a clear understanding of my weaknesses in self-publishing, although I don't have a clear understanding of how to fix the problems. I have much to learn. But I feel that it's do-able. I've had some good feedback on the stories themselves, primarily from Tanya Reimer. I was a guest recently on her blog, in which she interviewed me and said very nice things about the book. I feel that I'm now a published writer, though I'm not kidding myself that I've achieved anything great or spectacular. In fact, I've accomplished very little. I'm virtually an unknown, and that's as it should be at this point. I've now got to up my game, so to speak. When I publish the novel, I want to be much farther along in the self-publishing process.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Six Core Competencies (6 cc's): a mind map

In a previous post, I showed my mind map of one of the 6 cc's--story structure. I've decided to show my mind map of all six. The order of the 6 cc's is not important, only that you have them working for you (according to Larry Brooks, author of Story Engineering). I think of them as a living being of sorts: story structure is the skeleton, character is the muscle and skin, scene execution as the organs working together, concept is the heart and soul of the story, and theme and voice are both embedded in and permeate the entire story like blood and oxygen. You can look at them separately if you wish, but they work together as a whole.

As in the previous posts, I'll show the entire map and various sections. Some of this is difficult to read, but I hope you get the idea. One of the benefits of this mind map is seeing the thing as a whole, which, when I did, gave me the idea of the 6 cc's being like a living being. I could see that these things overlapped and worked together. You can almost overlay scene execution onto story structure. Concept feeds the veins. I hope this analogy works for you. If you see it differently or something better, let me know.

Entire Mind Map of the 6 cc's

Story Structure

Concept, Scene Execution, & Character

Voice & Theme

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mind Mapping a Book

I've done a mind map of Part Five, The Fourth Core Competency--Story Structure of the book on writing titled Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Due to limitations in my knowledge of how to present these pictures, I've had to show the whole mind map followed by various sections of the map enlarged. What I'm trying to achieve with this map is an overview of the components of story structure as presented by the author. If I can comprehend the entirety of the components in one visual, it should be easier for me to follow and remember. I could have done a straight outline of the chapter, but the visual component would be missing. Combining a limited outline with the visual component of the mind map, I should have a better grasp of story structure, a mental picture. This mind map is based on my understanding of the key components. One word or group of words represents paragraphs, even pages of information. It would not mean much to someone who hasn't read the book. But, because I've read it, I understand what everything stands for.

Mind Map of Story Structure

Right side of mind map.

Lower right corner of mind map.

Left side of mind map.
I hope this illustration has given you an idea of one way to use a mind map. Reading something is one thing. Understanding it is another. I think mind mapping helps with understanding and remembering.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Point Of View

Choosing the point of view (pov) for a novel can involve some difficult choices. Almost everything I've written has been in third-person omniscent; it gives you so much more lattitude. Limited third-person omniscent can give you quite a bit of room to maneuver, too. But nothing beats first-person--for the writer as well as for the reader--for immediately identifying with a character. But the limitations of first-person are many.

What are the advantages of third-person omniscient? The story can be seen through the eyes of any of the characters at any time. In first person, you can't very well see the story from any other character's pov, not without many limitations.

To some degree, plot determines pov. For example, a story I'm working on right now, started out in first-person, but I've come to realize that it won't work for the plot of the novel. Other people's povs, without the protagonist in the chapter, must occur later in the novel. Now I've got to rewrite what I've done. Fortunately, I'm very early in the story, so it's not a problem. But, I hate to change the pov, because I'm losing the instant identification with the protagonist that I've felt. But a writer does what he has to do. The overall story comes first. I'll try to figure out a way to keep it in first person before making the change, but keeping it may be too difficult.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mind Mapping and Fiction

For years I've used mind mapping to help me in my writing. Primarily I've used it for organizing plots: lining up the flow of events. But lately I've been thinking a lot about how I can use mind mapping for all phases of writing--developing characters, developing scenes, exploring possible options to plot.

Mind mapping is a technique for organizing information that was developed by Tony Buzan. You can show huge amounts of information on one sheet of paper. It uses drawings and words connected by curving lines. It represents the way our mind connects information. I've used mind mapping to organize presentations, placing an entire presentation on one sheet of paper.

The best way to understand how mind mapping works is to see it for yourself. There are various mind mapping websites that contain dazzling mind maps. One site is One book is Use Both Sides of Your Brain by Tony Buzan.

My Day
I'm not an artist, so the illustrations of mind mapping that I've done are pretty poor, but they give you the idea.

Detail of "My Day" mind map

Greater detail of "My Day" mind map.

I plan on posting from time to time what new techniques I'm learning about mind mapping for fiction. If anyone of you already use mind mapping for fiction, please let me know. If any of you try using it, please let me know the results.