reviews

Resource: Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder

Noticed how for the last couple of months ‘read books about craft’ has been a constant on my monthly to-do list, and yet no books about craft were getting read? Yeah, me too. I’m hoping to read and review one craft book a week throughout 2018, starting now.

Writing friends, if you have any recommendations for me, feel free to share! I’ve got next week’s book picked out, and a list I’m hoping to work my way through, but I’m always up for suggestions.


Save The Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need.

Blake Synder.

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I put off reading Save the Cat for ages, mainly because while I was still living in Japan, I had a writing friend who read it and was not impressed. I forget what her objections were now, but I think it was along the lines of the fact that Blake Snyder overly simplified things, and didn’t really take into account all of the differences of genre. Other writing friends have been underwhelmed by it, so I went into it with very low expectations. As a result, I really enjoyed it.

At this point in my writer’s journey, most of the advice in Save the Cat were things that I’d encountered before, but I really appreciated the simple way that Snyder presents them. Sure, a lot of them are obvious, but take it from me, it is really, really easy to overlook the obvious. I do it on a regular basis. Take Snyder’s title for example: save the cat, a beat near the start of the story where the hero does something that puts the audience on their side. This is usually, though not always, done by having your protagonist do something heroic, e.g. help someone, do something selfless, or otherwise engage our sympathy. The point isn’t that they do something heroic, a distinction which many people, myself included, miss. The point is that they engage reader’s sympathy. This is something I overlooked in Ibiza on Ice. As a result, many readers reported struggling to feel any sympathy  for my unlikeable hero, Aston. Whoops!

I also really appreciated the refresher on structure and Snyder’s beat scheme, which tallies very nicely with the advice of James Scott Bell, and Michael Hauge, my writing go-tos for plotting. But Snyder said something else, which I have never encountered before. When writers set up their writing outline, in this case a board, and play around with cards, pins, colour coding, and stationery choices, we are not simply wasting time, we are allowing the story to sink into our subconscious. I fully subscribe to this theory! I mean, it explains a lot about writers and our love of stationery/procrastination.

There were things that grated. Snyder’s likes and dislikes are clear and he paints them as examples of things that don’t work rather than as things that didn’t work for him. However, I was willing to forgive him this, because he considers Legally Blonde one of the best films ever made, which it is. So yes, I enjoyed reading this, and while I’m probably not going to rush out and purchase a copy of it for myself immediately (I borrowed this from the Christchurch City libraries), I think it will be a really useful reference to have and one I’ll probably pick up in the future as a reference.

Room at the Inn and Of Printers & Presents

It’s Boxing Day here in NZ, and I am not yet ready for Christmas to be over. So, I’ve been prolonging the festivities by mainlining seasonal fiction, courtesy of NineStar Press’s 2017 Seasonal Collection (the same collection The Charity Shop Rejects appears in). I’ve already talked about Handmade Holidays. Today, I’m reviewing Room at the Inn and Of Printers and Presents.

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Room at the Inn by Drew Marvin Frayne is a contemporary story set in the hotel where Jason, the main character, works. The premise will resonate with anyone who has had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day–the author does a really good job of capturing the mixed feelings of working that particular holiday evokes. Jason’s looking forward to a dull evening, and is reflecting on his dissatisfaction with where he is in life, when a striking guest checks in, sharing the news that there is a bus of disgruntled travellers on their way, and Jason must pull out all the stops to save Christmas.

There’s no conflict, but I don’t think there needs to be–the circumstances act as one, and enough happens that the happy ending feels earned. I was thinking that this is almost like a Cinderella story, which might be why it is so satisfying. Stylistically, the writing reminded me a lot of Holiday Hotel Hookup by Jeff Adams which I read last year.

Room at the Inn at Ninestar | Amazon | Smashwords

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Of Printers and Presents by Asta Idonea is a sweet, uncomplicated office romance. Any other time of the year, I might complain that the story lacked conflict, or that there was too much explaining, but this story was so exactly what I needed to read today, that I just enjoyed it. Sometimes you just need an uncomplicated romance! Especially at Christmas, when things have a knack of becoming exponentially more complicated than they need to be.

Vaughan is shy and crushing on Ford. Ford has anxiety issues, and doesn’t want to compromise his work position by acting on his crush on Vaughan. They’ve been dancing around each other for two years. Can an office secret Santa be the force that finally brings their feelings out in the open?

Of Printers and Presents at Ninestar | Amazon | Smashwords

 

Review: Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine

This is my first holiday read of the season, and I don’t feel precipitate in saying that it’s my favourite. It has so many elements that I love—friends to lovers, slow burn, ensemble cast, people taking on the responsibilities of jobs and families, found families… And they’re put together in a way that is not hit you over the head sappy, but genuine. I was not at all surprised that the author drew on his own experiences in writing it. The story, for the most part, feels true.

To be honest, Burgoine had me at ‘origami crane.’ Nick has got a Christmas tree for his apartment and his first Christmas on his own. It’s only when he gets it set up that he realises he doesn’t have any decorations. Enter Haruto, or ‘Ru’ as he is commonly known, with a box of candy canes and an origami crane. The crane is the first piece in a collection that grows along with Nick’s new family.

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I really love the way the crane shows up throughout the story. Cranes have a special meaning for me. I was still living in Japan when my sister got engaged, and for her wedding, I folded one thousand cranes. It was a really positive experience. When you are folding that many cranes, you get into a rhythm. It’s like knitting or any other repetitive activity–it becomes sort of like a meditation. Your fingers are busy but your mind can wander.

At the wedding, the cranes took on a life of their own. My sister loved them and decided to use them in her decorations. We hung them from the roof, we put them on tables as decoration and even placed them among the bushes in her garden—it was an outdoor wedding. The guests loved them and a lot of people took them home as favours. My sister gathered all the ones that we left and kept them, until another friend was having an event and asked if she could use them. I like to think that a few of my cranes are still out there, kicking around, pressed between the pages of a photo album, or maybe sitting on a shelf or a desk.

But yes, digression aside, I thoroughly recommend Handmade Holidays for a seasonal story that will leave you feeling warm and glowy, without drowning you in saccharine sweetness.


Handmade Holidays

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.

As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late.

Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.

Purchase Links:

Ninestar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo 

Curses, Foiled Again! by Sera Trevor Out Now!

I have been looking forward to today almost as much as Sera! I was lucky enough to beta-read Curses, Foiled Again! and have watched Felix and John’s progress right from the start. I really enjoyed the unique mixture of vampires and old Hollywood, while John’s cynicism and Felix’s obliviousness just ticked all my boxes. This isn’t your typical romance or even your typical vampire romance, but if you like characters with baggage, quirky plots and dark humour, then you will love it, just like I do.

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Felix is a vampire—a fierce creature of the night who strikes terror into the hearts of everyone unlucky enough to become his prey. Or at least, that’s what he thought was true, until he met John. John is completely unimpressed with Felix, much to his dismay. Felix becomes fixated on proving his ferocity to John—and when that doesn’t work, he strives to make any impression on him at all.

John is a witch, and as all witches know, vampires are notoriously stupid creatures who only have the power to hurt those who fear them. Besides, he’s under a curse much more frightening than any vampire. Felix’s desperate attempts to impress him annoy John at first, but gradually, they become sort of endearing.  Because of his curse, John has pushed everyone in his life away. But Felix can’t be hurt, so there’s no harm in letting him hang around.

Felix is technically dead. John has nothing left to live for. But together, they might have a shot at life.

This dark and witty vampire romance for adults is complete at 100,000 words, with no cliffhanger. Despite some dark twists and turns, it ends with a solid HEA.

Ninestar | Amazon |Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks

 

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Cats Have Staff: A.L. Anderson

My friend M. Caspian shared her cute fluff penname this week, revealing she occasionally writes ‘sugary-sweet M/M romance with HEAs all round‘ (she also reviews notebooks and introduced me to Little & Fridays so I totally endorse following her). I feel like I deserved a treat for getting Dead Wrong submitted by my deadline, and figured a sugary-sweet fic was better for me than eating half a packet of gingernuts. When I saw Cats Have Staff I knew this was the story for me.

Cats Have Staff is short, sweet, uncomplicated but still had me ridiculously invested in Sal and Golightly. In short, it was exactly what I needed tonight, and I thoroughly recommend it for cat-people or people trying to reduce their gingernut intake.

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Salvatore Moretti has spent the last three years alone, ever since his lover Benjamin Cresswell left town for the job opportunity of a lifetime. Sal knew he couldn’t hold Ben back, and instead he’s been focused on creating a solid life for himself. A good life. He doesn’t need more than that . . . does he?

This is a short story of 14,893 words.

Cats Have Staff on Amazon.

Rainbow Gold Reviews Trans Aware Event

I spent most of August chasing my tail (RWNZ conferences will do that to you). Now that I’ve got some time to catch up, I wanted to point you towards the Rainbow Gold Reviews blog. In response to President Trump’s actions, they decided to host a week long event highlighting trans authors and books with trans characters. They got such an overwhelming response the event extended into two weeks—two weeks of guest posts, interviews, book reviews and giveaways. Sadly, I’ve left this too long for the giveaways I’m sure, but I highly recommend checking out the event.

I’ve already highlighted Elliot Cooper’s contribution, but there are some very cool contributions. I love the honesty of Jenn Polish’s Transition on Trains: On Being a Non-binary Author,  and in Victor Alexander’s interview. I’m in there too. Gatsby, a side character in The Wing Commander’s Curse, happens to be trans—and happens to be serving in the military. Timely! Honestly though, I think I gained more than I gave. Reading the guest posts and interviews challenged me. I’m in awe of the honesty and courage of these very talented authors.

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In order of posts, earliest through latest:

J.S. Fields: Interview.

Angel Martinez: Guest Post

L.A. Witt: Having her Back. Book Review by Dana.

Jeff Adams: The Inspiration behind Hat trick Book 3: Penalty Shot.

Francis Gideon: A Winter in Rome. Book Review by Eloreen.

Jay Northcote: Interview and Starting From Scratch: Book Review by Bethany.

Aidan Wayne: Grounded. Book Review by Wendy.

Missy Welsh: Why I Wrote a Romance Featuring a Transman.

Joe Cosentino: Books of Inclusion.

Gillian St. Kevern: Interview

Christopher Hawthorne Moss: A Fine Bromance. Book Review by Dana.

Jenn Polish: Transition on Trains.

Elliot Cooper: Are Your Books Trans Enough?

Julie Aitchenson: Guest Post.

G.R. Lyons: Life in Transition.

Allan Hunter: Identifying as Genderqueer rather than Transgender

Fifi Frost: Trans-trap. Book Review by Wendy

Anna Martin: Guest Post. The Impossible Boy: Book Review by Bethany.

Francis Gideon: Hopeless Romantic. Book Review by Dana 

Victor Alexander: Interview

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Reading: Sunset at Pencarrow

Regular readers of this blog will remember my interview with Anne Barwell about her release with co-author Lou Sylvre, Sunset at Pencarrow. I’m reading it now (very slowly because of a lot of family stuff that is happening), and wow. The story could not be more apt.

The two main characters meet when their flights out of Wellington are grounded because of fog.

Lead article when I took a break to check the news feed on my phone: Rotorua to Christchurch trip takes group to Auckland, 28 hours later.  The headline is a little misleading. The group is from Christchurch, heading to Rotorua–the exact same trip I’m making in August to the RWNZ 2017 Conference.

We’ve had similar headlines all week, as temperatures drop and snow fell in a lot of the South Island. Here’s hoping that Anne and Lou write a follow up novel, where the heroes have smooth flights all the way to Rotorua, is what I say.

Buy Sunset at Pencarrow.

Dreamspinner Press  | Google Books | iTunes | Kobo |Amazon| Barnes and Noble 

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Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.

Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.

 

 

 

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