Posted in Book Review, Writing

Book #22: A Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder by Julie Anne Linsey

Name: A Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder
Author: Julie Anne Lindsey
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Romance
More Information:  Author Website | Amazon | Goodreads

My Rating: 

Mia Connors is a woman of many talents. As the IT manager of Horseshoe Falls, an upper-class, eco-friendly community, it’s her job to make sure the entire computer system runs smoothly. In her free time, she religiously plays an online RPG called REIGN, cosplays for a variety of events, and spends time with her overbearing family. As she struggles day-to-day with her extreme social anxiety, she bonds with people via her obsession with designer heels and coffee.

When the residents of Horseshoe Falls begin receiving bogus emails about coupons and appointment dates, Mia finds herself in quite the conundrum. She’s confident her system is airtight and no one could’ve possibly hacked into it, but she can’t find the source of the emails.

She returns to her office late one night because the security system was tripped and is shocked to find one of her best friends dead at her desk, his face and head bludgeoned. The new head of security, Jake Archer, immediately fingers her as the killer. As she’s attacked from all angles, Mia must hurry to clear her name before she loses more than just her job.

Continue reading “Book #22: A Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder by Julie Anne Linsey”

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.

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

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 that Harry needed another distraction from his studies and to show that Harry was growing older.


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

Remember 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 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 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.
Posted in Writing

Ring Around the Rosie…

When I was in middle school, my history teacher one day mentioned with this goofy smile on her face that the nursery rhyme, Ring Around the Rosie, is actually about the plague that killed most of Europe’s population in the 14th century.

At first, I didn’t believe her. I thought she was joking. But as she explained, I came to a realization: nursery rhymes would never be the same…

I’ll break it down for you, verse by verse.

Ring around the Rosie…

One of the obvious symptoms of contracting the plague was a rash-like red ring on the skin.

Pockets full of posies….

The smell of rotting corpses and who knows what else was so strong that some people resorted to stuffing their pockets with fragrant flowers. The disease floating through the air wouldn’t break through their shield of good smell, in other words.

Ashes, ashes…

If you were lucky enough to be spared from mass burials, then your body was cremated and reduced to ashes. I imagine that it probably wasn’t uncommon to burn down the deceased’s house as well in order to cleanse the town/village.

We all fall down!

This, of course, means death. I’m not sure of the exact percentage, but over half of Europe’s population was exterminated within a short period of time.

This is what’s called a euphemism: a clever substitution of something deemed too harsh or grotesque to say outright. I suppose it is useful, in a way, to teach children about the past without permanently scarring them with images of bodies covered in horrible rashes…

Posted in Writing

Confusedly v. Confusingly

When writing anything from a school paper to a full-blown novel, choosing the correct word for a situation may not seem all that important. However, some words are spelled so similarly that they’re easily confused for the other, even though their meanings may be very different. Take “Confusedly” and “Confusingly” as examples.

CONFUSINGLY is verb defined as “to make unclear or indistinct“.

Have you ever talked to a friend and they passionately try to explain their fascination with a subject, but to you it just sounds like gibberish? Although he or she may be talking about something completely factual and correct, you just don’t understand. In other words, they are speaking confusingly.

In layman’s term, if someone says something that you don’t understand because they have thoroughly confused you, then they’re talking confusingly.

Other Examples:

  • Someone is upset and on the verge of hysterics, so their speech is jumbled and not at all coherent.
  • Talking in circles as new thoughts pop into their brain.
  • Someone who is mentally insane and speaks nonsense.
  • Trying to quickly make a point, but actually talking too fast for anyone to understand.

Confusingly can also cover actions. For example, when someone tries to teach you a card trick, but their hands move so quickly that you just can’t keep up. “Well, you just move your finger like so and the card should slide over.” He confusingly switches the deck from hand to hand, somehow mixing them together in the process.

CONFUSEDLY is an adverb defined as “in a confused manner“.

If you are confused, then your actions will reflect that. When you’re confused, your movements are slow and hesitant, you look to others for guidance, or you just stare dumbly until they take pity on you. All of these are examples of confusedly.

Continuing the card example, let’s say you give the card trick a try. It seemed easy enough when your friend did it, but you quickly discover that that’s definitely not the case. You confusedly switch the deck to your other hand, accidentally dropping half of it onto the floor, but try to recover by mixing together the remaining cards. After a few more attempts, you give up in frustration and your friend laughs at you.

More Examples:

  • The girl confusedly tried to copy the teacher’s cursive writing on the board, but the sentence was so sloppy that even she couldn’t read it.
  • After watching the older boys, Jake confusedly tried to copy their skateboard tricks, but ended up with a bruised butt and deflated ego.

Ironically enough, I hope this isn’t too confusing for you to understand. Let me know if there are any other word comparisons you’d like me to do!