The Writers Circle: Favorite Books

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Reading is a critical part of a writer’s life. Today we’d like to discuss the favorite books, stories, poetry or other works you have read. What is it about these works that you found so exciting or compelling? Did any of these books inspire you to start writing?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

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Write Now Prompt for February 2, 2018

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The shadows were playing games with their minds.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Write Now Prompt for January 30, 2018

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

They had been lugging the crate around from one house to the next for many years, but they hadn’t opened it in decades.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Name, Please

A Young Man Reading at Candlelight by Matthias Stom, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Not much weighs less than a name. Still –

Names connote more than letters on a birth certificate. They are the blessings of our parents and the identity for our national placement. They are the curse of our enemies and the honor of those who love us. They may boost our aspirations or cost our freedom. They are our paycheck and our passport to class reunions, our marriage bond and our legal rights, a memory of our failures and a trophy for our successes.

Think of Dwight David Eisenhower and you think of a brilliant commander. Think of Albert Einstein and you think of a brilliant physicist. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a gifted African American writer, his name as unique as he is. And who doesn’t know Madonna? Not the blue-robed statue in church – the barely robed one on the stage. Princess Diana will always be remembered, her name associated with compassion, royalty, and a horrible death. Or Buddha, his calm figure seated in a temple, his singular name easy to recall. Mahatma Gandhi is always thought of as a man of peaceful civil disobedience, and Sun Tzu always as a man of war. Mother Teresa recalls a kindly nun bringing hope to the poor and disenfranchised. Think of Hannibal and you will also think of the Alps, maybe a bit of history. If you like history, you might remember Betsy Ross and the first American flag, or of Florence Nightingale who raised the profession of nursing. And who could ever forget young Nobel laureate Malala, the face of courage in the face of terror? Or Abraham Lincoln and the brief speech that makes us value the cost of freedom? Or Anne Frank whose teenage diary forces us to remember the cost of bigotry?

There are more ordinary folks also, whose names carry weight for them. Renee is called Naynay because her younger sister couldn’t say the letter R. Samantha hates her name and demanded to be Manda until her friends convinced her Sammie was way better. Howard is Howie even as an adult, though it’s a bit babyish now, and Leonardo was always better known as Leo, which fit well as a child and an adult. Carol and Leslie are twins, male twins, and though their names are unisex, they chose less androgynous monikers. Call them George and Arnold today, their given middle names, no mistaking them in person or print. Neither Sherry nor Brandy has a taste for alcohol, given their mum and dad were drunks, so soon as they could, they chose less addictive names.

Dano’s real name is Rupert Daniel, but God forgive anyone who calls him by that first tag assigned him by his insistent great-grandfather. Since he couldn’t pronounce his own name at two, he became Dano – the way he said it, and better all around. Bertha Agnes Froog was visited at nineteen, a week after she left her parents’ home for good, by a dream spirit who divined her true name: Indigo Wave. Seriously, were I named something as awful as Bertha Agnes Froog, I’d also have run from it. Well, maybe not to Indigo Wave.

Given names (was Hero an honor or a joke played on the baby?). Inherited names (how many James Smiths does the world need? OK for James Smith Jr., or the III, even the IV, maybe the V, but the VI – now we’re bored and the exclusivity has worn off). Family names (no one on earth wants to be known as a Hitler or a Torquemada, even if the first name is Juliet or Aiden). Baby names (don’t call anyone Pootie Pie if they are older than two). Pseudonyms (are you hiding or running away?). Nom des plumes (so past acquaintances can’t catch up to you, or because someone else has made your real name famous, Marilyn Monroe?). Nicknames (Stinky, Button, and Ladybug were fine back in the day, but it’s no longer back in the day).

Authors have much fun making up names. My favorites are those who create unpronounceable letter combinations but get angry when we say them incorrectly. Why shouldn’t I say Jacob if someone writes Jkb? If they want me to say it as Ickbo, it should be spelled that way, no matter that Jkb is a creature from the planet Zxqkn. That’s Zisqueen to me but Ekshozsa to the writer – they intended the final n to be silent. And if anyone chooses #*^^)(@% as a name, I will pronounce it Joe or Sue, depending on gender – if I’m able to determine gender – I get to choose.

Favorite book characters include Cordelia, Ebenezer Scrooge, Holden Caulfield, Lolita, Huckleberry Finn, Kunta Kinte, Ayla, Atticus Finch, Jane Eyre, Jay Gatsby, Scarlet O’Hara, Ifemelu and Obinze, Tess, Sherlock Holmes, Sethe, Amir and Hassan, Anna Karenina, Wonder Woman and Superman (yes, they’re comic book characters,) Okonkwo, Heathcliff, Hester Prynne, Celie and Shug, Inigo Montoya and Buttercup, and Hamlet – because I must begin and end with Shakespeare. You know these characters if you’ve read the books, though the titles are absent here.

I’ve chosen names for my stories according to the decade and country where a person was born. And to my whim. Elaine is an American character I like, though she is deeply flawed, Harvey is an unlikable jerk. John is strong and protective, and Junko is Japanese and wise. Rivka is a hero in the same story as Janusz, while Egon is a brute, and his name means the edge of a sword. Gittle, meaning good, is a sweet if naïve woman while Mendel’s name is changed several times.  Jocelyn, called Joey, links together generations and continents. In another story, Mama has no other name, but her daughter, Kimberly, is called by different names depending upon who is talking to her.

So now for my own name: I was born Sharon Lynne Bonin. I found it an awkward mouthful for a kid who liked pink ruffles and wanted to be a flower girl more than anything in the world. My last name was changed to Pratt when I married, and friends call me Shari though there’s nothing documented to show it as a legal attribute. Look up a number of combinations on Google and you’ll find more than one Sharon Pratt, or Shari Pratt. But there is only one Sharon Bonin-Pratt. Me. And this is my chosen nom de plume.

Names lug meaning and history along with the letters. Noble, debased, inventive, ethnic, silly, responsible, criminal, fickle, powerful, romantic. Reputations tip the scale. Not much weighs less than a name. Or more. Choose carefully.

 

 

 

 

 

Write Now Prompt for January 26, 2018

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

No one could believe what they unearthed while searching for the underground gas leak.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Write Now Prompt for January 23, 2018

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

She walked out to discover that she had left her car’s window down in the rain.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Write Now Prompt for January 19, 2018

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

It was the strangest robbery attempt the bank had ever had.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

14 Websites to Read Free Digital Books

For all of us addicted readers, we know that the cost of the ereaders that curate our ebooks is minor compared to the cost of the ebooks we are reading. The books of many best-selling authors cost just as much if you purchase them digitally as print though there is no cost of paper, machinery, distribution, shelfspace–all that. Still, I am getting used to digital books and like them better for a lot of reasons–I can write on the pages without getting arrested, I can bring ten books in case I don’t like the first five, they are light-weight, the font can be enlarged (that’s a new appreciation as I get older).

But, it’s increasingly difficult to find affordable ebooks. Thankfully, the library now offers Kindles (or similar) with the digital book on it at no cost. I know over time, they’ll get a bigger selection but right now, they’re just getting into it. Here’s a list of free book sources I like:

Bookopolis

Bookopolis is a large collection of fiction and nonfiction books for ages 7-12. Here, students can read, get ideas for new books, comment on books, and earn badges and points to reflect their love of reading. Educators sign up with a Teacher account and then set up classes and accounts for students. Students can practice persuasive writing, comprehension, and typing skills by completing reviews, reports, and reading logs online. Parents can sign up home accounts to help students keep track of favorite books. Available books include Newbery Award Winners as well as many other reader collections. Kids can even watch book trailers before making a selection.

Books can be read online or on most mobile devices.

Classic Literature

A free collection of the most popular public domain pieces in classic literature (Shakespeare, Jane Austen and more)

Great Books Online

By Bartleby. An extensive collection by the preeminent internet publisher of literature, reference and verse providing students, researchers and the intellectually curious with unlimited access to books and information on the web, free of charge.

Gutenberg Project

This site provides thousands of digitized books, audio recordings, DVDs/CDs from the public domain (or out-of-copyright). This includes Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, A Tale of Two Cities, Heart of Darkness, and more. These are great for all ages to not only read but research topics that might have been well-covered years ago but not so much now (like primitive tribes).

You can read them online, on a mobile device, or download them.

International Children’s Digital Library

The ICDL offers over 4,600 digital children’s books in over 59 languages that exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages, and ideas. Books are made available from a variety of sources including the Library of Congress. Readers search by title, author, country, or category (or several other options such as ISBN). By setting up an account, readers can add tags to books and organize them according to their preference. Many ICDL books are classified as “activities” meaning they are perfect for digital story times, scavenger hunts, and creative writing exercises.

Most books are only available through the website or a link to the website.

Internet Archive

Internet Archive offers over 12,000,000 freely downloadable books and texts. There is also a collection of 550,000 modern eBooks that may be borrowed by anyone with a free archive.org account.

Librivox

Free public domain audio books that can be listened to on computers, iPods or other mobile devices, even burned onto a CD.

Loyal Books

Free public domain audiobooks and ebooks in many genres, for all ages.

Many Books

Over 33,000 ebooks that can be browsed by language, author, title.

My Books

My Books is an app that includes over 51,305 free books of various genres, even nonfiction. You can read online or download and read offline. There are also 5,199 audiobooks. 

Online Books Page

Listing over 2 million free books on the Web that can be searched by author, title, series, and keyword. They also offer news and other special features.

Open Library

Open Library is a curated list of over 20 million books (and growing) that are available worldwide to all age groups whether from the public domain or under copyright protections. Once you find a book, you access a scanned version (if available, say from Project Gutenberg) or purchase it at a linked bookstore. 

Access this catalog via the website.

Read Any Book

A wide collection of genres included, for all ages.

World Cat

World Cat is a comprehensive curation of books, CDs, articles, videos, and more available at all libraries in a geographic area or around the world, for all age groups. This includes not only public libraries but colleges and universities. Once you’ve located a resource, you check it out from that local library. You can get help from a librarian, leave comments and reviews, even factual notes (much like Wikipedia).

World Cat only includes libraries that have joined the World Cat group.

More on reading

Forget Summer Reading. The Classics are Timeless

National Poetry Day

Unconventional Research Sites for Writers

My Research at the Library of Congress 


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Write Now Prompt for January 16, 2018

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

This side effect of his new medication was completely unexpected.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Interview with Maria Riegger

Maria-13Maria Riegger is a lawyer and political junkie who lives in the DC area and has found a creative outlet by writing novels. She writes contemporary romance set in a political environment. Maria was nice enough to talk to me about her writing process and journey to publication.

When did you start calling yourself a writer? When did you decide you wanted to be published?

I’ve been writing since I was about twelve years old. I started calling myself a writer when I began working on my first novel. When I came up with the storyline for that novel (around 2012), I decided I wanted to publish it.

How did you determine that self-publishing was right for you? 

I knew immediately that I would self-publish. I prefer to retain 100% creative control, and I did not have the patience to shop my work around to publishers. I know several successful authors who self-published first before their work was picked up by publishers, so that is also a possibility.

thunderstruck-coloredDo your personal politics filter through when you’re writing fiction set in a political environment? How did the recent election affect your writing?

Yes, my personal politics do filter through, and that is by design (I also blog about constitutional law issues and other areas of interest to libertarians). I’ve received different advice from authors on whether or not to let readers know your political preferences. Some of the best advice I’ve received from successful authors is to write what you are passionate about, and readers will naturally be drawn to that. I will add, writing about your political or other personal preferences should always be done respectfully.

-The recent election did not really affect my writing. I’ve been disillusioned by the two-party system for years, and that has not changed.

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process? 

I am always working on multiple books, so if I’m stuck on one, I will often work on another book. Sometimes I will ask other writer friends for advice. A good workout and taking some alone time also help spark creativity for me.

Talk a bit about your most recent book. How long did it take to write? Who is your audience? 

My most recent book, which will be published March 2018, is titled Thunderstruck. It is a standalone (not part of a series) contemporary romance novel set during a fictionalized political campaign. It took about a year to write (I work around my day job). It’s targeted to adults. Interestingly, I had several male friends who enjoyed my first two novels, Miscalculated Risks and Acceptable Misconduct, although I intended those books to be targeted more to women. I think that some of the themes, e.g. not fitting in, finding one’s purpose in life, uncertainty regarding relationships, resonated with men as well as women.

Learn more about Maria at www.lawschoolheretic.com. Her 99 cent sale starts today, January 15th.