Book Review – Conspiracy 365 – February by Gabrielle Lord

Once again, I found a book in our house to review. One of the boys had it in his room. I think it might have been one he read for sophomore English this year. It looked interesting, but the fact it said February on it made me wonder if I should read it before the January one.

Our book club read a book in a middle of a series for one of our monthly reads. Thunder Bay, by William Kent Krueger, the seventh book in the series. Since we read that one, I have gone back and read most of the series (I finished book #10 and Jim has read through #11) of sixteen. His books could all be read without having read the previous ones. But, if I had read the books in order, I would have learned more about the main character’s back story.

The Bully’s Way is the second book in The Way Series I am preparing for an alpha read in September.  I have heard when writing a series, the author wants to have it fit into the series, but also be readable on its own. So the reader doesn’t have to read the first one to enjoy book two. It is something I will keep in mind as I continue to write the books in The Way series.

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Conspiracy 365 – February

Author

Gabrielle Lord

Type of Book

Middle Grade/YA mystery and suspense. This is the second book of a twelve book series.

Background

Lord is an Australian author known as ‘The Queen of Crime Fiction’.

The books were all published in 2010 and made into a mini television series in 2012 in Australia. Each segment of the television show was aired the first Saturday of each month through out the year. There are a total of seventeen books in the series, with additional storyline played out in the last five books.

Summary of Story

Callum Ormond is a fourteen year old boy on the run from the police and violent gangs. He has to find the answer to some research that his dad was working on before he died and has to stay alive for 365 days to do it. He lives in junk yards and abandoned houses to avoid all of those who are chasing him.

Reactions to book

The story was good. Lord kept the action moving and kept me reading. I found it may have been helpful to read January first to have more continuity in the story line. The book seemed to get a little long in parts, but as a 40 minute tv show, it may not have felt as long. It was probably written that way to get the story into the twelve segments.

If you are interested in picking up a copy of this book or any others in the series, you can find them here Conspiracy 365 Series

To learn more about the author, be sure to check out her website Gabrielle Lord.

Writing Prompt #3

Just an everyday writing prompt

So far this month, I’ve been using my own unfinished ideas and moving them forward for writing prompts. By developing those ideas, I may be able to add them to other ideas to make another story or a novel down the line.

Other writing prompts that are out there to give writers ideas to free write about. They come in the form of written statements, description of a scene, pictures or even songs. These ideas are found in books, online or in daily postings. These can be used as practice exercises or the start of something bigger. On some of my Facebook writing groups they are also referred to plot bunnies.

Writing Prompt – Writers Unite!

One of the Facebook writing groups that I belong to is Writers Unite. This is the paragraph that they created to introduce a writing prompt for the group. Usually it is in the form of a picture and it is used to start the creative juices going.

“We don’t put up prompts expecting a novel or even a novella. We put them up to get the creative juices flowing. All we ask is a paragraph or two to extend the prompt to what you see as the next step or the quick conclusion. Your imagination is like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it gets. So… give it five minutes and tell me what your mind comes up with.

This image is being used simply as a writing exercise and is not free to use for any professional purposes at all since we do not have the rights to this picture.”

I have a book on my writing shelf called 642 Things to Write About by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. I think I’ll pick that one up and randomly pick something and use it as a writing prompt. Here’s the writing prompt that I picked for this blog entry from 642 Things to Write About.

You wake up by the side of the road lying next to a bicycle with no memory and no wallet. What happens in the next hour?

Gingerly getting up from the ground, she looked around the ditch she was sitting in. She didn’t know where she was or how she got there, but it was on the side a two two lane country road. She brushed herself off and noticed some road rash on her shin. Had she swerved to avoid something? How did she end up in the ditch? She didn’t remember, but got up and picked up her bike.

As she pushed her bike back up onto the road, she was trying to decide which way to go. She looked both ways and saw a sign to her right that said Smithville 5 miles. She decided that it was a doable ride to get there, so she got on her bike and started to pedal. She looked at the area around her and still didn’t recognize anything. She hoped that once she got to Smithville that she would.

After about a half hour on the road, she saw the city limits sign for Smithville and a gas station just beyond it. She decided to stop and ask for some information. She was hoping that someone could help her with who she was since she didn’t seem to remember that either.

She pulled into the gas station and parked her bike in the bike rack. This place must know something about riders to actually have a bike rack. That made her feel a little more confident about all of this unknown around her. Walking into the gas station she headed right to the bottled beverages section, feeling the need for a bottled water. She didn’t know how long she had been laying in the ditch before she came to. As she walked up to the register to pay, she reached for a couple of dollars that she carried in the pocket of her biker shorts. She found it odd that she couldn’t remember where she was, but she knew where the cash was.

“Will that be all for you today?” the clerk asked as he took the money from her.
“Where is Smithville?”
“Why do you ask that? Don’t you know where you are Wendy?”
“My name is Wendy?”
“Yes, Wendy Wilson. Did something happen to you on the ride?”
“I must have swerved to avoid something and hit my head. I woke up and didn’t have any idea of where and who I was.”
“Are you ok? Do we need to call a doctor?”
“No, I just have a little road rash on my shin. I should be able to bike home. Where do I live?”
“You live in Smithville. A little place out by the lake. Been in your family for years,” the clerk replied, “let me take you there. I can put your bike on the back of my truck.”
“This is going to sound like a crazy question, but do I know you?”
“I’m Ian. I’m your cousin.”
“I’m sorry. I must have hit my head pretty hard, but I don’t feel any bumps.”
“Maybe something else happened to your memory. I’ll be able to take you home in about twenty minutes. I’ll be done with my shift. Can you wait until then?”
“I probably should anyway. Since I don’t seem to know where I am.”

She took a seat in a little eating area that was located next to the deli. She was relieved to learn that she was close to her home. It would have been harder to deal with this if she were farther away where she didn’t know anyone. Wendy was glad that she found Ian here, he seemed nice. She sat there drinking the water wondering why she didn’t recognize anything if she did live here. She smiled as Ian walked over.

“Are you ready?”
“Yes, let’s go and get my bike,” Wendy replied as they walked out of the store together.

They walked over to the bike racks and unlocked her bike. She followed Ian as he rolled her bike over to his truck where he put it in the cargo area in the back. After closing the tail gate, he walked over and opened the passenger door for her.

“Here we go,” Ian said and started the truck.

He pulled out on to the same road Wendy had come into town on. He ran through the middle of town and took a left where the road ran into a dead end at Lake O’Brian.

“What a pretty lake,” Wendy said.
“Yes. It’s a beautiful place.”
“Is this the lake I live on? You said that I live on a lake.”
“It is Wendy. You live there with your husband Joel.”
“I’m married?”
“Yes, you have been married for a long time. You guys just celebrated your fortieth anniversary last month.”
“Wow. I can’t say that I remember that. Now I feel kind of sad.”
“We’re almost to your place. You’ll get to see Joel in a minute.”

Pulling off of the road and turning to the right, they drove onto a gravel road. After a couple of curves on the path through the woods, a two story log cabin appeared ahead of them. There was a man walking out of the house towards the spot where Ian’s truck stopped. Joel walked over to the passenger side and opened the door.

“Did you go out on a little adventure honey?” Joel asked her.
“I guess that I did. I don’t remember where I was, but I made it to the gas station and found Ian.”
“I’m glad that you found him, I was a little worried about you.”
“Why don’t I remember?”
“You are suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s. You can remember things great sometimes and then times like this happen and you lose your train of thought or memory for how to get back home.”
“When did this start?”
“About six months ago, with smaller things. This is the first time you’ve taken the bike and not come back on your own though.”
“Do I like to bike?” she asked and started to cry.
“Yes, you do,” Joel replied in a very patient voice as he put his arms around her, “You love to bike all over.”
“Why can’t I remember it?” she asked through her crying.
“It’s a terrible disease that takes your memory from you. I’m sad about it too.”

And that’s how a random writing prompt works. I was able to come up with a short story that took this prompt on my own writing journey. Some of the inspiration for this was based on a book we just read for book club last month called Still Alice by Lisa Genova. And some of it is from a tough time that a good friend of mine is currently going through with her Dad and his dementia. She’s on my mind quite a bit lately, so that probably played a part in my experience with this one.

Writing journeys can definitely be affected by what is going on or has happened in our lives. It’s the experience that we can write from that can make our words more meaningful to us.

The Hard Way – the editing step

The name of my first manuscript is currently titled The Hard Way. I’ve been struggling to take the step of having a professional editor look at it. I’ve been checking on different editing sites and Facebook pages to understand how much it will cost. I got a little overwhelmed with the fact that it might be a little out of my price range right now. Wanting to get to the publishing step of my journey, not being able to afford it made me consider whether I really needed to do it or not. I thought, the beta readers that I asked to read it for me should have given me adequate feedback, right? Coming back to the fact that it should be done, I started spinning my wheels to come up with a way to get the money put together for it. With all of the family expenses we have, I wasn’t seeing it to even be possible until our youngest son graduates from high school in three years. This potential road block on my journey to publish a novel has been really upsetting me a lot lately.

By checking out different writing sites, Facebook groups and author pages, I’ve been trying to figure out how I would go about finding the right editor. I want to find one that I can build a relationship with, and not someone who is going to do a onetime read for me and then leave the scene. I know that I’m looking for an editor that works in my genre of YA/Middle Grade. They will be knowledgeable about how the story should read and what is required for the audience that I’m ultimately trying to get my book out to.

After thinking about how important my publishing goal is to me, I took a big step yesterday and started searching for an editor to see if I could make this work. Being a writer with aspirations of publishing a book someday, I wanted to take the right steps to get this done. Many published authors talk about how important it is to have an editor involved in your work. If it is the right person, they are able to collaborate with you to produce a successful book for the readers. The trained second set of eyes can see a lot of things the writer can’t see, like ideas or information that may be missing from the flow of the story. I realize how important it is to have those trained set of eyes on the manuscript before it becomes a book and goes out into the world to the reader.

Yesterday when I started my search, I noticed that some editors offered a free read through and critique of a few pages to provide the writer with a sample of how they edit. I think that this could be a good way to interview an editor. I looked through one of my Facebook Writing Groups and found a YA/Middle Grade editor that I decided to contact. Sending the initial e-mail set the process in motion. I e-mailed back and forth with her and it seemed to be going as expected. I sent her what she required from my manuscript for her to take a look and see what kind and how much editing it may need, in her professional opinion. I’m excited to hear what she has to say. Maybe a little scared too. But it feels good to make that step, a step I needed to take to move my project forward.

I’m sure there are things that will need to be changed and or cut out to make the story cleaner for the reader. A little anxiety wells up when I think about how much of the story the editor thinks doesn’t need to be there, but I feel that it is important to be included. I saw all of the work it took to get the story on the page, but I have to remember that the editor is going to have a good idea about how it should go. These conflicting feelings are a normal part of the process that all writers go through when they send their stories out to be edited.

To make myself vulnerable and put my work out for the masses to see has definitely taken some courage to do. I started with a few friends and had them read my story, which wasn’t too hard for me. We got together for coffee and they gave me their thoughts. Then I decided to present it to my book club for our monthly club selection. I felt a little more anxious about doing that one. They commented and critiqued it during our book club meeting and that was a bit intimidating. But I’m so glad that I did it. Now I’m working on finding a professional editor critique it for me, which is a bigger step than the other editing and feedback opportunities, but those opportunities gave me some experience going into this one.

I got to the point with my own self editing that if I read it again, I either wouldn’t be able to see anything more to change, or I would make too many revisions to things that didn’t need to be changed. In my case, the editor is going to bring objectivity and knowledge about getting a book ready for publication, which is what I need at this stage in the process. I’ve heard that writers must develop a thick skin to accept the critiques and rejections that are received from the editors and critics. But those are usually offset by the readers who love and enjoy the story. Not everyone is going to like what we create, but it must put out there if we want the story to be heard.

I was originally planning to post a segment of my WIP for the blog today. Now I think I’ll wait until I’ve had an editor take a good look at it!