Posted in My Thoughts, Writing

My Review of “OnlineBookClub”: A Website that Pays for Book Reviews

First of all, Online Book Club is a website of “Online Message Boards for Readers, Book Lovers, and Writers”, plus free and paid book reviews. When I first discovered it, I was less than impressed with the boring layout, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. So far, I’ve made $15. Having a bit of pocket money is the only attractive point, however, because the mandatory requirements are just ridiculous.

1.) The Review Team

Once you’ve selected and read one of the available books, you write the review and submit it to OnlineBookClub’s team of editors. As a writer, I was excited to get some feedback from professionals.

What I didn’t know is that they expect absolute perfection. For an amateur website, they’re pretty damn picky. After writing five reviews, I still have no idea what they’re looking for. I’m averaging a score of 75%.

2.) Point System

Your points determine how many books are available to review and how much you’ll be paid. The problem? Getting and keeping points is impossible. Each forum post gives you a tiny fraction of a point, so you’ll have to post at least a thousand times to get a decent amount. Once the review team has shredded your hard work to pieces, they deduct so many points that you practically have to start all over again.

I have yet to get over 40 points, which is the minimum required to pick a book to review. Then, I have to spend at least another week posting comments in forums. That gets old very quickly. Very, very quickly.

3.) Book Selection Isn’t that Great

Not to sound cruel, but the books they offer seem to be rejects from other websites. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but there are so many grammar and plot mistakes that they’re honestly difficult to understand. To read the nicer books, the ones from semi-famous authors, you need a high number of points.

4.) Good Points

I’ve read books I never would have normally, which is a nice change of pace. But, as I said, they haven’t been all that enjoyable…

I’m now technically a “published” author and OnlineBookClub encourages us to include them on our resumes.

5.) And So…

This website is perfect for people who have a lot of time on their hands – to sit down and painstakingly analyze their work sentence by sentence and spend hours posting on forums after forum after forum. Probably need to have the patience of a saint, as the saying goes, or you will be shedding some angry tears.

For everyone else…it’s best to find another website.

 

Posted in Short Story, Writing, Writing Prompt

Word Magic: Jump

Whenever I need to exercise my brain or get the ideas flowing, I like to play a game called “Word Magic”. It’s pretty simple to play: just think of a random word and then create a story that revolves around that word.

My latest attempt was using “Jump”


For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a debilitating fear of heights. Just the thought of standing on a chair to hang a picture in my kitchen sends my stomach on a violent roller-coaster ride. Using an elevator? No thanks, I’ll take the stairs. Going to a friend’s housewarming party on the fifth floor? Not a chance. Taking a plane to the super-important conference that I absolutely can’t miss? I’d rather take the train, thank you very much.

My friends and family say I’m ridiculous. They joke that I need professional help to overcome this phobia. They laugh when I’m on the verge of tears after they literally shove me into an elevator.

I never argue or get upset with them because, deep down, I know they’re absolutely right.

This fear stems from an incidence back in elementary school, an incident that is permanently seared into my brain. I am not athletic by any stretch of the imagination and that day almost twenty years ago proved it, both to me and the dozens of other kids watching on the sidelines. The activity sounded easy enough, just run and jump over some hurdles barely a foot off the ground. You’ll finish in five minutes tops, the teacher promised us.

I made it half-way around the track before the inevitable happened. I was actually quite proud of myself for making it that far and I let my guard down as I waved to my friends, to signal my accomplishment for all to see. And then my ankle caught on the hurdle and I fell face-first onto the asphalt.

I was dazed at first, then the pain set in. I looked over to see all the other kids, my ‘friends’, laughing hysterically and my teacher shaking his head as he casually strode over to me. The skin of my face was busted and bleeding badly, but the shame felt so much worse. My entire body recoiled with sobs and all I wanted was to just disappear and transfer to another school.

Every time I run into one of my old classmates, they smile and ask me if I remember that day I face-planted in front of half the school. I just laugh and say, “Not really”.

This phobia has constricted me and controlled me for most of my life and I’m finally ready to concur it, once and for all. The local gym has a track and a few hurdles that I can rent by the hour. As I stand here at the starting line, the asphalt under my feet and the sun glaring in the distance, I take a deep breath and put one foot forward.

To beat this phobia, all I have to do…is jump.

Posted in Short Story, Writing, Writing Prompt

Word Magic: Bus

Whenever I need to exercise my brain or get the ideas flowing, I like to play a game called “Word Magic”. It’s pretty simple to play: just think of a random word and then create a story that revolves around that word.

My latest attempt was using “Bus”…


Hayley sat bolt-upright in her seat of the inter-city bus, watching without truly seeing as other passengers boarded and settled down around her. Her mind and heart were racing. She wanted out; out of this damn city. Away from all the heartbreak and disappointment. She wouldn’t be disillusioned anymore. No, her mother was never coming back. There would be no one at home to welcome her, to support her.

The bus swayed as the driver pulled away from the curb and Hayley felt herself relax. Within a matter of days, she’ll finally be able to start over, to live her own life.

After her mother left, Hayley was left with an apartment with no electricity or running water. She worked dead-end jobs every night and dropped out of high school. The only salvation she had was the man who lived next door, sweet Mr. Fieldwick. He was in his seventies, retired, widowed. Never questioning her choices or criticizing her efforts, he just smiled and offered to cook her dinner.

No judgement, just acceptance and love.

Until the day his heart gave out and Hayley had to watch him die.

She promised him through the tears that she would be happy one day, that he could look down from Heaven and smile proudly at what she’d become. It wouldn’t be the same without him, but she would never forget his teeheehee laugh or his words of wisdom or the way he smelled like coffee and morning sunshine…

Jolted back to reality by a pothole in the road, Hayley realized for the first time that a young man around her age was seated beside her, humming softly and swaying in rhythm with the bus. Surreptitiously wiping her eyes, she smiled slightly in greeting. His returning grin was breathtaking.

Holding out his hand, he said, “Hey. The name’s Sam Fieldwick. What’s yours?”

 

Posted in Writing, Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt #2

Some Ideas:

  • A hacker(s) has infiltrated the country’s most used electrical company and has shut off power to millions of buildings across the country. When the government attempts to temporarily switch to another company, it too is shut down. How can the FBI track a hacker(s) without any electricity?
  • Is the Vice President a serial killer, or is someone close to him/her planting evidence that is near impossible to discredit?
  • What is the strange goo-like substance being found in the water supply? Is it man-made, or something else entirely?

Good luck!

Posted in Reading, Writing

How to Make Lovable Characters (feat. Draco Malfoy)

Who comes to mind when you think of a book character that you connected with on a truly emotional level? A character you rooted for, you cried with, you wished would have a happy ending, you wished would kick ass and succeed in all ways…?

For me, that character is Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter.

In the beginning, I hated his pretentious little guts and hoped his schemes would blow up in his face. As he aged (as we aged), I realized that it was much deeper than that. He’s just a lonely boy craving love and acceptance, and the only way he knows how is through fear and manipulation. He’s a fictional character, but I still felt some kind of kinship with him. And that’s why he’s the perfect book character.

To Connect and Emphasize:

If Malfoy were just an average spoiled brat, then we’d all hate and ignore him. He would be a lost cause, something we wouldn’t bother with. But every now and then, that facade would break and we’d get a glimpse of the pain underneath. Everyone has, at one point in their lives, felt alone and misunderstood. We know that pain Malfoy must feel, and that’s why we sympathize with and pity him.

If you, as a writer, want your readers to feel just as invested in your book as you are, then a Malfoy is a must. Think of it this way: would you rather read a book narrated by Malfoy or by…her:

Name one person you know of that actually likes Umbridge. You can’t, can you? That’s because she was purposely written to be a complete bitch. Imagine reading a book with a protagonist as selfish and evil as Umbridge. You probably wouldn’t even make it past the first two chapters. She isn’t relatable and, therefore, a perfect antagonist.

Remember: don’t be an Umbridge.

A Flawed Character

No one is perfect. A character with no history, no tragedies is just…boring. Would you read a book about a perfectly normal high schooler who went to school, came back home, and repeated the process for two-hundred pages? No, something needs to happen to make them special. We read for entertainment, after all.

An example would be Cho Chang. In the books, she’s an ‘A’ student. Beautiful, talented, dating the school prince. The only reason she was invented was because Harry needed needed another distraction from his studies and to show that Harry was growing older.

Yaaaawn…

Your protagonist shouldn’t fade into the background, but be the colorful spark of life that attracts and brings together the whole book.

A Character Who Makes Us Laugh and/or Cry

If your readers truly connect with a character, then they’ll cry as hard as they did when Fred Weasley or Sirius Black died. After awhile, we think of them as family, as our friends. And then they’re taken away and we feel actual grief.

While you’re writing, stop and think. Would my readers care if I suddenly killed off this character? If not, then maybe they need a change of personality. Or maybe they should be eliminated from the story altogether.

Make us invested in the lives of the characters and we will gobble it up like candy.

 

Posted in Writing

Writing Exercise: Eliminating Wordiness

I just finished reading an excerpt from Stephen Wilber’s  Mastering the Craft Of Writing in my monthly edition of Writer’s Digest and I thought the writing exercise that came with it was interesting enough to share.

I’ll be copying it word-for-word, with the answers in bold.

1.) Unnecessary Words

Can you identify the words that are used needlessly in this sentence? I’m referring to the previous sentence, the one you just read. How would you revise it?

Did you eliminate that are used so that the sentence reads, “Can you identify the needless words in this sentence?

2.) Wordiness in Sentences

Eliminate the wordiness in the following sentences:

  1. In order to write with emphasis, avoid wordy expressions.
  2. So as to eliminate wordiness, imagine that you are paying $5 per word to send the message.
  3. In the event you don’t own Nordic skis, you can rent them at your neighborhood rec center.
  4. During the course of my writing workshops, we do lots of exciting exercises like these.

And the answers:

  1. To write with emphasis, avoid wordy expressions.
  2. To eliminate wordiness, imagine you are paying $5 per word to send a message.
  3. If you don’t own Nordic skis, you can rent them at the neighborhood rec center.
  4. During my writing workshops, we do lots of exciting exercises like these.

3.) Wordiness in Paragraphs

The following paragraph is replete with wordy expressions. Can you eliminate them?

In order to make every word count, it is my belief that you need to be aware of your habits of speech. During the course of revising your writing, undertake a search for stock phrases that can be reduced to fewer words. In the final analysis, your effectiveness will be dependent upon recognizing your own habits of speech.

I found six:

  1. in order to should be to
  2. it is my belief should be I believe
  3. during the course of should be during
  4. undertake a search for should be search
  5. in the final analysis should be finally (or delete the phrase entirely)
  6. will be dependent should be will depend on
Posted in Writing

A Website to Help You with Citations

WritingRemember those days in high school when you had to pull an all-nighter to write that essay you totally forgot about on some boring topic you’re not at all interested in? And when you’re finally done and click the print button, you suddenly realize you forgot the work-cited page?

If your teachers were/are anything like mine, then every single little punctuation mark had to be perfect. Oh, you forgot a comma here. Minus 5 points! This URL isn’t in the right place. Minus another 5 points!

But, my dear reader, I found the gem of all guides. No, the GOD of all guides.

Citation Machine is a website that will make the citation for you, once you fill out all the necessary information, such as the name of the source and who wrote it.

If you’d like to read some articles on how to properly write citations yourself, then there’s another site called The Purdue Owl Online Writing LabIt also gives examples of how your paper should look, depending on whether you use APA or MLA.

Posted in Writing

Give this writing exercise a try…

I was reading through my monthly Writer’s Digest magazine, when I came across an interesting writing exercise. It was featured in the middle of an excerpt from Nancy Ragno’s Word Savvy: Use the Right Word Every Time, All the Time (Free Kindle format or paperback book for under $1 on Amazon). Let’s give it a try, shall we?

I’ll copy the exercise word-for-word in italics, with my corrections being in bold.


“What ales  you, Harry? Why sit crying in you’re bier? Yore pail, to. Your in pane, no?”

“What ails you, Harry? Why sit crying in your beer? You’re pale, too. You’re in pain, no?”

“Eye, George. I feel offal. Its really effected me. Its hard too bare. I aired. I admit it. Its awl my fault. First of all, Ellie desserted me–left me at the alter, sow to speak. But theirs alot moor to it then that.”

“Aye, George. I feel awful. It’s really affected me. It’s hard to bear. I erred. I admit it. It’s all my fault. First of all, Ellie deserted me–left me at the altar, so to speak But there’s a lot more to it than that.”

 “Why knot tell me awl about it? Lets get down to brass tax.”

“Why not tell me all about it? Let’s get down to brass tacks.”

“Tacks! That’s just it, George. That’s when it awl started. I’ve bin a full. I blue it. I cheated on my income tacks. I aught not to have done it. I lost my scents. Now Ellie nose it two. And now there coming after me.”

“Tacks! That’s just it, George. That’s when it all started. I’ve been awful. I blew it. I cheated on my incomes taxes. I aught not to have done it. I lost my sense. Now Ellie knows it, too. And now they’re coming after me.”

“Dam! Not that, Harry! Not the IRS!”

“Damn! Not that, Harry! Not the IRS!” 

“The very same. The Infernal Revenue Service. It seams theirs only won answer four me now, George. Boos!”

“The very same. The Internal Revenue Service. It seems there’s only one answer for me now, George. Booze!”

“Rite on, Harry. Aisle drink too that! Butt put your cache away. This Bud’s on me, buddy!”

“Right on, Harry! I’ll drink to that! But put your cash away. This Bud’s on me, buddy!”


Sounds like what a middle schooler writes on Facebook, doesn’t it? It physically hurt to type it out, to be honest. I was twitching throughout the whole thing haha.

Posted in Book Review, Reading, Writing

3 Useful Books for Writers

Name: Fact, Fiction, and Folklore in Harry Potter’s World: An Unofficial Guide

Author: George Beahm

Even if you’re not interested in writing your own fantasy novel, this book is still a very interesting read. It explains the mythological origins of the beasts featured in HP, how the characters got their names, and in-depth histories of great figureheads and locations in the Wizarding world.

For an aspiring writer, this is a goldmine of information. Did you know that the nickname for Rubeus is Rube and that Rube means a rustic, awkward person? A perfect name for Hagrid, don’t you think? It’s little details like these that can make a simple tale into a best-selling universe of its own.

Buy At: Amazon    Barnes n’ Noble


Name: Books, Crooks and CounselorsBooks, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure

Author: Leslie Budewitz

When writing a mystery novel, details are everything. If you’re unsure of the law, buy this book. Here are some of the featured sections:

  • Are handwritten wills enforceable?
  • What is the insanity defense?
  • A character in my story is convicted of assault. What is the philosophy of sentencing and what are the possible ranges for his sentence?

Buy At: Amazon    Author Website


Name: 642 Things to Write About15720499

Author: The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto

Literally 642 random writing prompts to choose from, ranging from describing a bank robbery from the viewpoint of a victim to Facebook posts in 2017.

If you’re suffering from writer’s block or just itching for some practice, then this book is for you!

Just be warned, though: you’ll be painfully reminded of standardized tests from high school…Please answer the following questions on the short story you just read…*shudder*

Buy At: Amazon    Wal-Mart


I own all three of these, so I can vouch for them personally. There are dozens more to choose from on Amazon and hopefully I’ll have more to review in the future.

Posted in Writing

Grammar 101 (#2)

Welcome to the second installment of Grammar 101!


1.) Scaring v. Scarring

There may be only a one-letter difference in spelling, but the meanings are completely different.

“Scaring” is a form of “scared” (or afraid), while “scarring” is a form of “scar” (or some kind of physical or psychological wound). Here are some examples:

  • “Jacob, stop scaring me with your stupid pranks!”
  • A large black dog lived on the property, his sheer size scaring away any possible intruders or pranksters.
  • The scarring was most likely permanent, but she hoped to one day save up enough money to have it all removed.
  • It was a scarring experience–watching my brother being taken away in handcuffs, accused of murdering his girlfriend.

2.) Plague v. Plaque

If you have the “plague”, then you might be a ghost from the 1400’s. If you have a “plaque”, then you’ve won an award for your achievements or you seriously need to visit the dentist. Definitely want one, definitely don’t want the other.

By “award plaque”, I mean something like this:

It’s pronounced “pla-ack”.

Plaque can also mean the buildup of bacteria in your mouth that sticks to your teeth. Why someone decided that these two completely unrelated things should be the same word, I have no idea.

And by “plague”, I mean the epidemic that swept across Europe in the 1400’s and killed off 60% of the population.

Pronounced “pla-agg (like egg, but with an ‘a’)”.

I recently did a post that analyzed the nursery rhyme Ring Around the Rosie, a song chronicling what it was like to live through The Black Death.

3.) Laid v. Lay-ed and Lay v. Lying

I was asked this question recently, so I thought I’d add it to the list. I found a very well-written article on Quick and Dirty Tips.com that explains all the different forms of “lay”.

4.) Anyone v. Anybody

After searching the internet, I couldn’t find a definitive answer to this question. Apparently, “anyone” is just a more formal version than “anybody” and allows the sentence to flow a bit better. The same applies to “everyone” and “everybody”.

In other words, “anybody” is a slang-ish version of “anyone”.

5.) Booking v. Brooking

Booking means to reserve something in advance, such as a hotel or entertainment group.

Brooking means to tolerate or allow something.

  • I won’t brook any arguments from you, young lady.
  • Hello, I’d like to book a room at your hotel for two nights.