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Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Memories 09 | Sue Leib Bernstein

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It’s All About the Words

There’s something about a well-crafted turn of a phrase that has always given me pause. Even as a child, when I would read a book and came across an unexpected, beautifully-turned phrase, I would stop and read just that phrase, over and over, until I could practically taste it. Then, I would continue on with the story.

For me to love a book, it must have more than just well-fleshed-out characters, an engaging story and snappy repartee. The books that stay with me are the ones whose word choices surprise and delight me, whose phrases are both unexpected and exquisite. One of the first books I can remember staying with me is "The Age of Innocence," by Edith Wharton.

"The Age of Innocence" is the story of upper-class mores of New York society beginning in the 1870s and how, with the turn of the 20th century and passing of generations, change affects every aspect of the traditions they held so dear. This is a world where style and form are the highest values. Sounds dry as dust, doesn’t it? But, Edith Wharton’s words and descriptions bring this world to vivid, delicious life.  Instead of merely advising the readers that the matriarch of that New York society, Mrs. Manson Mingott, is fat, Ms. Wharton wrote: “The immense accretion of flesh which had descended on her in middle life like a flood of lava on a doomed city had changed her from a plump active little woman with a neatly-turned foot and ankle into something as vast and august as a natural phenomenon.” I clearly remember reading this for the first time in high school and rolling the words “the immense accretion of flesh” around on my tongue. 

Instead of a mundane throw-away line about the matriarch no longer being physically active, Ms. Wharton wrote: “The burden of Mrs. Manson Mingott’s flesh had long since made it impossible for her to go up and down stairs….” The burden of her flesh – I love this phrase. It is succinct, concise and descriptive without being maudlin. It is perfect.

The protagonist of the story, Newland Archer, is a young man of modern values who is constrained by the traditions of the society in which he, his family and friends lived. As described by Wharton, they lived above the “unruffled surface of New York society.” Newland was engaged to be married to May Welland, which would accomplish not only his own betrothal but the merger of two honored New York families. While watching his fiancĂ©e from across the audience of the old opera house, Newland “contemplated her absorbed young face with a thrill of possessorship in which pride in his own masculine initiation was mingled with a tender reverence for her abysmal purity.” With all deference to modern culture, isn’t this a much nicer way of saying that he was proud of himself for being the one to snag this beautiful, young virgin? In literature, whether old or new, it’s all about the words.


Sue is a typical Gemini – she craves novelty and variety and gets bored easily. These traits have served Sue well, leading her to try her hand at many fields. Over the last 25% years, Sue is and has been an attorney, corporate risk manager, personal caterer and editor. Currently, Sue is exercising her passion for voice acting by narrating the fabulous fiction of author Imogen Rose. You can also catch Sue on TV in a national commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts. Sue lives in New Jersey with her husband, son and three very large cats.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Submitted a Story & Story Structure

I just submitted a 7,500 word short story to an anthology. Even though this is a short story it's longer than most of my short stories and I worked really hard on it. I'm really excited about it. I hope they accept it and it gets published in the anthology. Beyond that I am going to make it into a graphic novel and an audio book. I used what I've learned about story structure to plan out the story in four parts before writing it. I broke it into four parts to match the four parts of the three act structure. If you're not familiar with that you have:
  • Act I - the first 25% of the story
  • Act IIa - the first part of act 2 is the next 25%, the end of this is the midpoint of the story
  • Act IIb - the third quarter of the story, the end of this pushes you into act 3
  • Act III - the last 25% of the story and the last act that gets you to the resolution of the plot.

Quite a few things happen at key parts of stories - or at least they should. Watch just about any movie and you'll see these things happen at the same time. For more on this, check out these breakdowns of popular movies.

  • Act 1 introduces the character, the setting, and the conflict.
  • Act 2a is when the characters start wandering through the "new world" they've been thrust into.
  • Act 2b is when they change from reacting to acting and start fighting back.
  • Act 3 is when the final showdown happens with the bad guy and everything gets resolved.

My favorite tool for wrangling my story into the right structure as I outline is Blake Snyder's Save the Cat Beat Sheet which I linked to above. It has several story points that do specific things and go in specific places in your story. Making sure you hit these points in your story really help it to flow better and hit the reader on an emotional level better. They also seem to help me fix my stories when I can't figure out what's wrong with them or where they should go next.

What tools do you use to write better stories? Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan | Book Review

This story was so much more than I was expecting. I was expecting it to be great and enjoyable because I like the author's writing, but this book has so much more in it than a good tale. It makes you think, a lot. It deals with a ton of huge concepts and ideas but not in a heavy handed way. You discover things with the protagonist and it comes off so well in the story. As Ellis Rogers, the main character, is discovering things and rethinking his worldview you find yourself as a reader contemplating the same issues as well. I don't want to give any spoilers away but I'll just say that this is a time travel novel and the society that Ellis discovers in the future is an amazing place to visit, but also something that really makes you think about a ton of issues.

Okay so the book makes you think, but it's also really fun, has characters you will love and love to hate, and fantastic settings. I really enjoyed my visit to Hollow World and you will too. The people you'll meet and the places you'll visit you won't soon forget and you'll think back on fondly when you finish the story. I found myself rooting for the main character and enjoying his journey. He was written really well. Very believable motivations, very fleshed out and real. I feel as if I've met him. A certain person of the future, the one on the book cover, is my favorite character though. His name is Pax and he is awesome. You'll see what I mean when you read or listen to the story. The audiobook is how I read this by the way and the narrator Jonathan Davis did a fantastic job. I've heard him read a few Star Wars novels and so I knew I was in good hands but he really made this story shine. I especially loved the way he voiced the antagonist of the story.

There's so much more I could say about his book like the fact that it also made me laugh a lot, but I don't want to spoil anything. I have no problem calling this novel an instant classic and I think that anyone who's a fan of Science Fiction would agree. To sum up, great characters, cool settings, thought provoking issues brought up by a difference in the society of the future our protag discovers. Five stars all the way baby.

Have you read any of Michael's books? He also has wonderful epic fantasy you may have heard of - The Riyria Revelations. Thanks for stopping by!

Visit this page on Michael's site for links to all of his books. You can even buy directly from him.

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Been Quiet Around Here

It's been mighty quiet around here as of late, but I have been working on my writing and audiobook narrating. I've also been traveling to get screened and tested for a job with United Airlines. I'm going to work part time with them. We've also had extra kids around lately with foster care and my oldest son has a couple baseball games a week. We've been crazy busy. I've been really busy at work too, finishing up a 3 month project. So that's why I haven't found the time to blog lately - I even missed last Friday's Book Memories guest post because I was in Texas and Denver Thursday and Friday.

But I did manage to get some things done while waiting for airplanes.

  • I finished editing my short story.
  • I finished editing an audiobook.

The short story is a fantasy adventure story I wrote to submit to the Portal Under My Sink anthology. It came in around 7,300 words and that's good because their limit is 7,500. I'm pretty proud of it and I've been getting some pretty good feedback on it so far from beta readers. I hope it makes it into the anthology. If it does it will be my second book put out by a publisher. Five Rivers Publishing is going to release this one like they released A Method to the Madness. I'm excited to see what comes of it. Whatever happens I'm also going to make it into an audiobook and put it on Audible, and make it into a graphic novel too. So those are exciting things for the future. I've always wanted to create a comic book and I can't wait to see what all is involved in that process. A very talented friend will be doing the artwork instead of me because he draws comics and is amazing.

As for the audiobook, it's a really fun title by an author I've worked for before. Drac Von Stoller has another awesome creepy story. This one is titled "Ghost Mansion," and is though it's still very short it is quite a bit longer than the other ones I've done for him so far. I will be finishing it this week. 

So that's what's up with me, what have you been working on? Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Book Memories 08 | J.R. Murdock

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When I was three or four, my mother had a subscription to two different books clubs for my older brother and me. One was to Gold Key, the other to Disney. Each month we’d get two new books in the mail; one Gold Key, one Disney. We got all the traditional books that you’d expect from a collection like this. We also got many obscure books.

My brother loved the Disney books, I preferred the Gold Key. Until I was a little older. Sure, my mom and step-father read books to both of us, but my brother was able to read on his own and he soon graduated from the kids’ books to comic books.

I remember my favorite Gold Key book was the pokey Little Puppy. I’d flip through the book again and again waiting until my mom or step-dad had time to read it to me. When I was a little older, it was the Disney book, The Magic Grinder. In this book, a dragon gives a magical devices to a poor woman with two little boys. It provides them with anything they needed as long as they said the magic words.

Once I was older and could start checking out books at school, I still remembered the dragon from that book. I read everything I could about giant lizards, and was fascinated by books with dinosaurs. In a year I checked out everything the library had and even though I could read well, I devoured those books. I was good at math, history, or any subject in school really, but ask me about any dinosaur, and I could regurgitate any of the facts I’d read including when and where the fossils were discovered.

I never lost my love of dragons and once I was old enough to start checking out books from the high school section, I graduated from dinosaurs to fantasy and science fiction. Worlds that took me away from my childhood life and into worlds unknown. Places I’d rather be. During that time I probably read two or three books a week. Anything I could get my hands on.

Yes, my grades still suffered, but it wasn't because I didn't understand the subjects in school, but because they held no interest for me. When forced to do homework or study for a test, it was discovered that I could retain almost anything. I went from a D average student, to an A average student with only a little effort.

Still, I preferred reading. Once I moved to live with my father, I still read voraciously. I would check out books from the library three or four at a time and return them all the following week for three or four more. I got an allowance that allowed me to go to the book store and buy books in bulk. I didn’t matter what books I bought, I would read them quickly, usually give them away to friends that wanted to read them, and go buy more.

When I didn't have money for books (growing up and living on your own is a lot more expensive than it seems) I took my collection of books to the used book store and started trading for books I hadn't read. Again I’d be reading one or two books a week. Until my supply of books and money ran out.

There was a drought in my reading period during the mid to late 90s. Years where I didn't read anything. It wasn't until someone put the first five Harry Potter novels into my hands that I rediscovered my love of reading. Those books brought back the magic I’d been missing. Sure, Harry Potter is intended for younger readers, but I could relate to much of what he’d gone through. I spent a lot of time as a kid with a flashlight reading books I had checked out from the library trying to escape from the life I had. Harry wanted to get away to a magical place, and he did. In a way, I had also done that.

I was never hungry as a kid, but I did grow up with an abusive step-father, a difficult time in school, summers spent cutting wood to sell to help feed our family, and terrible winters in Minnesota. Books got me away from all that. They made me feel that there was something else to look forward to in life.

If ever I met a dragon with a magic grinder that could give me anything I needed in abundance, it would fill my life with all the books I could read. I still try to read at least one book a week, but many times life intrudes and that doesn't always happen. I will likely never stop reading, and I’ll always be looking for that special place to escape to.


J.R. Murdock is an avid reader of almost anything he can get his hands on. That being said, he also writes with near reckless abandon in any and every genre. His style is intended for pure entertainment. Over the years he’s written nine novels and over one hundred short stories. Only a few short stories have seen print (in actual print and on the web) so he’s decided to throw his hat into the podcasting arena with his novel V & A Shipping. Since then he has also podcast his novel Billy Barbarian and released his YA novel Astel: Chosen, not to mention the great short stories he's podcast in his Murdockian Tales series. Also V&A Shipping 2 is now available! Find out more at When not writing like a mad-man, J.R. Murdock does have a day job as a computer programmer and loves to spend time with his lovely wife and beautiful daughter.

Find J.R. Murdock online at:

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green | Book Review

Ok so technically the last paragraph of this post is where you'll find my review of this book - sorry I kind of got ranty and went off on how I'm always surprised by books like this one and how my favorite books aren't genre fiction. I know weird right? This book was awesome. Most of the books I read have fantastical story worlds, or magic, or advanced technology, or cool weapons - basically I read a lot of Sci-Fi and Fantasy because that's what I'm interested in writing. That said my very favorite books of all time, novels that I read multiple times because they're just that good, have not been in these genres. My favorite books are a lot like The Fault In Our Stars. Surprisingly they're not genre fiction. Normal characters in tough situations dealing with growing up and all the pain and learning that involves. Pretty much coming of age stories. They always seem to get me. I don't think I have one favorite story, but I do have a few that are tied for first place. The first is called "The Body" by Stephen King. Yes the one they made the movie Stand By Me from. It's not a horror story. It's a story about a kid who is invisible to his parents because his older brother died and his friends are his support system and the novel depicts that time in the characters life so well that you feel like it was your own personal history you just got done reading when you finish the book. The characters become your friends even if you’re a grown man and they're just kids. You feel like you were really there with them.

The second is The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It's about a Native American student who gets fed up with the education he's receiving at his school on the reservation so he transfers to a "rich white school," to get a better education. There he plays on the basketball team and makes new friends and changes and grows as a person. I know right? These don't sound like books I would even enjoy - and they're the best books I've ever read! I think it's because they do such an amazing job of telling the story through the eyes of the character. They're both first person. Both coming of age. Okay, so I was reviewing The Fault in Our Stars right? Okay let's get back to that :)

So The Fault in Our Stars doesn't sound like a book I would read or enjoy, but I loved it. A girl who's terminally sick with cancer meets a boy. They fall in love, but bad sad things happen. I won't spoil anything because what happens is not what you're thinking will happen. It's such a great story full of funny true genuine characters with quirks and amazing dialog and emotional memorable scenes. You'll leave this book remembering a lot of the scenes from it. Most books I finish and think back on and remember a couple cool moments - this book is full of them. The emotions of the characters are portrayed so well. Their story is sad but it's also inspiring and amazing. I highly recommend this book.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Memories 07 | Dan Absalonson

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This week you get to hear from me again! Yeah :) As I wait for more guest posts to come in I share two memories of being transported by reading The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. Enjoy, then write your own book memory and send it in to me! See this blog post for the details.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Grave Robbers | An Audiobook I Narrated & Produced is live!

An awesome audiobook I had the pleasure to narrate and produce just went live. This was a really cool story and my favorite I've been able to do so far from the author Drac Von Stoller. Not only are there cool sound effects and music in the background, as always, but I got to really have fun coming up with different voices for each character in this story. Also think old western shoot em' up story mixed with a ghost story and you've got Grave Robbers! Now available at,, and in iTunes! Go have a listen. I know you're going to love it. Why not pick up a copy and support an indie author and narrator. Thanks for stopping by!