Building Blocks of a Great Novel with Dianne Drake

MWW announces its the newest MWW Ongoing course, “The Building Blocks of a Great Novel,” taught by the bestselling author Dianne Drake.  This 6-unit course also includes a manuscript evaluation. Registration is now available!

Dianne says, “The goal of this course is not to teach you HOW to write your novel, but to help you discover all the key elements common to every great novel — elements that will make your novel great, too!”

  • Choosing Your Genre
  • Goal, Motivation & Conflict
  • Defining Your Point of View
  • Finding Your Voice
  • Creating Your Characters
  • Dialogue, Narrative & Exposition

What the Course Includes

  • Instructional sections that you can read on your own time, at your own convenience. This Prezi format is not a live presentation, and new lessons will not “drip” at various intervals during the course. Once you have registered, the entire course will be available to you, to access at any time you wish.
  • Assignments for completion at your own pace–designed to help you put what you learn into action.
  • Q&A time through a private Facebook forum designed especially for this course, plus discussions and handouts
  • AND each student will receive A FREE MANUSCRIPT EVALUATION AT THE END OF THE COURSE. Translated to mean 10 pages of a manuscript critique along with one deep editing pass.

CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: a discussion of what genre is; how to find the genre that works best for you, a reader’s expectation of genre, and much more.

GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT: the backbone of all great novels. What is GMC? How do you use it? Define it? Why developing your GMC will give you a head start on your novel that many writers skip. Also, how to apply GMC in your work for the best results.

DEFINING A POINT OF VIEW. Every book has one, so do most major characters. POV gives you a perspective of your story that no one else has. It also defines you, as writer, in your story.

FINDING YOUR VOICE. It’s unique. It’s you on the page-the way you present your story and yourself. It’s what your readers will relate to more than anything else, and what your editors expect to be so “you” your work will stand out in the pile. And, it’s what brings readers back to you and your books.

CREATING CHARACTERS. Good stories have good characters, great stories have great characters. This lesson will teach you everything you need to know about your characters, from naming them, to giving them the perfect backstory, to scripting them in a manner that your readers want more of them.

DIALOGUE, NARRATIVE & EXPOSITION. In other words, the whole ball of wax. How your story goes down on paper. Word choices. What resonates with readers and what doesn’t. This is the nitty-gritty about your writing and how to make the most of it so your next book contract will come knocking on your door almost before you’ve completed the current WIP (work in progress).

Looking to prepare for NaNoWriMo?

This six-unit series is for you!

The cost: $149 (includes manuscript critique!) Register HERE.

Join the course’s private Facebook community!

When you register for this course, you will be invited to a private Facebook group created for live interactions and questions.

Says Dianne:

I encourage lots and lots of questions and comments, anything you wish to address. I will also drop several handouts into the files — things I like to share with my students that may not necessarily have a proper place in the class. In addition, I will check in on the Facebook group several times a day, to answer questions, participate in discussions or to simply see how it’s going. If Facebook isn’t your thing, or you wish to discuss something privately, I’ll be happy to keep you caught up on my private email. 

About the Instructor

There wasn’t a time in her life when Dianne wasn’t writing something. The first real try she remembers came when she was aged 6, with a poem titled, “If I Had a Pony.” It was a lame attempt at getting her parents to buy her a pony, which didn’t work, but in that poem Dianne discovered she loved to write. So, she did…through grade school, high school, college school, music school, nursing school, grad school…It was always there. In Dianne’s life, there was always something to write about. Funny thing was, she wasn’t taking the hint. Not even when articles she was writing for professional medical journals were being published.

One day, though, Dianne’s mother died. She was too young. And she also died unfulfilled…full of hopes and dreams she never went after. This was at a time when Dianne was facing a disability that would eventually leave her with some very difficult physical challenges. Still, she didn’t want to end up like her mother, wasting a life of dreams that never had a chance. But, what to do? This is when, what Dianne calls, “The Post Card from God,” arrived. It was an ad for a writing workshop being held in Muncie, Indiana. Midwest Writers Workshop (1993) as it turned out. So, in her hand she had the opportunity to fulfill a dream she’d never really latched on to, but one that had always latched onto her. But, could she write for real? She’d always written, but to be a real writer?

Dianne did go to Muncie that year, totally nervous, but hopeful. And to shorten the story, 6 months later, her first-ever consumer article appeared in  Woman’s Day. From there came hundreds more articles, 9 nonfiction books and the true dream of her heart — 57 (soon to be 61) romance novels for Harlequin Books. Yes, her true writing dream was to be a romance writer.  Was the journey simple? Never. Was it worth it? Always. “The dream was always there. I just had to wake it up. It makes me sad knowing my mother was contented letting her dreams slip away because she missed a life that might have changed many things for her. But in watching her let her dreams pass her by, I discovered my own dream. I always wanted to write because I always wrote. No matter what happened in my life, I wrote about it. Big things, little things…none of it mattered. What did matter, though, was that my dream was always there with me and I was, and am blessed, to have it every day of my life. I was meant to be a writer. It was my dream, and it was my destiny.”

Dianne’s next two books from Harlequin Mills & Boon Medicals will be released simultaneously in January, 2018. Be on the lookout for  Reunited with Her Army Doc and  Healing Her Boss’s Heart — two connected stories about the healing powers of love, home and friendship. Also, keep up with Dianne’s new releases and news on her website at  www.Dianne-Drake.com and her Facebook page DianneDrakeAuthor.

Gallery: 2017 Midwest Writers Workshop

Video Slideshow:

Slideshow:
2017 Midwest Writers Workshop

MWW Free Event: Finish Strong for 2017

We’re heading into the last three months of the year. How does that make you feel? Are you where you want to be with your writing goals?

It’s a good time to dust off your writing goals for 2017 and see how you’re doing. What have you achieved that was on your list? In what ways have you exceeded your goals?

Have you fallen behind in some areas?

No matter where you are with your goals right now, the #1 way to finish the year strong is to Decide to Do It. Make a decision.

As the holidays approach, it will be easy to get caught up in everything except writing. Sometimes, we just assume that we won’t get much done at this time of year. But what if you decided this year will be different? You’re still going to enjoy your holidays, but you’re going to carve out some time for writing.

Having accountability partners may be one way we can help you carry out your goals at this time of hustle and bustle.

That’s why MWW has designed a free event called Finish Strong. It works like this. You decide what you want to accomplish by the end of the year. Are you going to go for it with NANO (write a novel in the month of November)? Is a book list calling to you, of reading you want to do, that will make your writing stronger?

Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, let’s help one another get there together.

We’ll post some inspirational information at least once a week, to help you keep on track. There is a private Facebook group for everyone registered for this event to share information. If you want to share your goals, that’s fine. If you want to share what is working for you, others may benefit. Those who have questions on how to achieve their goals will be able to ask the group, and see if someone can help. To be honest, this event will take shape based on who signs up and how they are able to participate (or not participate, if they only want to read the official posts).

We’ve said it before and will say it again. One of MWW’s greatest assets is the talented participants. We hope this event will be a virtual extension of the conference. Feel free to share with your friends. Anyone can register.

Cathy Shouse, a MWW board member, is putting together this group. All she asks is that you sign up. Imagine how great you will feel when 2018 rolls in, if you Made the Decision to Finish Strong for 2017.

Before you go, we’ve included this video clip from MWW 2017 below for inspiration. It’s just some writers sharing their thoughts. Look for Becky Albertalli’s’ snippet about protecting her writing time. Be reminded that you are not alone in this writing journey.

Register HERE for Finish Strong.

 
See you on the Facebook group, Monday, October 2 for a lesson in how to set goals that stick.

Top 3 Ways To Keep Yourself Writing

It’s hard to believe Midwest Writers Workshop happened about two months ago.

Which means, it’s that time of year when . . .

Some of us on the committee ask this burning question:

What are some ways writers keep themselves motivated in between conferences?

This is an excellent question, and we don’t think we’re alone with it. We consider ourselves very enthusiastic when it comes to writing. But, so many things can happen to take down our enthusiasm. We might have come home from MWW, sent out the requested material, and waited. Maybe we are still waiting.

Or we didn’t get a request at all.

Maybe we got cold feet once we got home, and told ourselves we needed to revise before we sent the requested material–and we’re still revising. Quite possibly, we didn’t end up sending the material at all.

Did you know? A large number of writers don’t send in the material that was requested at conferences at all? Nada. Zip.

And truth be told, some people who do send in their requested material never hear back from the person who requested it at conference.

But shake all of that off.

On a happy note, others may have book contracts by now (waving at Annie Sullivan.) Or they’ve gotten an agent.

The truth is, no matter what has happened–or not happened since conference, our enthusiasm for writing might be lagging a bit.

Probably the biggest reason is that we’re not spending enough time with other writers, like we did when we were in our MWW conference bubble.

So, we’ve created a list of the Top 3 Ways to Keep Yourself Writing

1. Stay engaged with other writerly people in RL (Real Life) any way you can.

Do a search and find out what’s going on around you. Go to that book signing that is an hour away (and put on your extroverted expression and talk to some people). Go to a lecture at a college, because all thoughts on any topic can stimulate your writing. Join a book club, if just for one session. Coordinate a writers lunch get-together, even if the people don’t write in your genre, or are earlier in their journeys than you are (even if you secretly think everything they write is weird). Just do something. You’ll feel better and write with more enthusiasm. We call this being a good literary citizen.

2. Sign up for an online course.

Let’s face it. Some of us live in outlying areas. MWW committee member Cathy Shouse lives in what was literally a cornfield. Some nights, the coyotes are “talking” with her dogs. So she’s learned that a good, interactive online course is just what she needs to keep focused on her writing goals. She likes to be in a virtual class with writers. (Note: MWW has a program called MWW Ongoing that offers exceptional, unique, interactive online courses. See details below).

3. Develop your online presence (which also secretly builds your platform).

Reach out to publishing people on social media. If you read a blog, leave a comment, even if it is as simple as “I enjoyed this. Good job!” Follow authors you like on Facebook. If they ask a question, join in and respond to it. When you have a following on FB, you can ask people questions–and they may actually answer.

BONUS: Renew your writing enthusiasm by watching the MWW17 highlights video below, created by Matt Shouse.

Just over 3 minutes long, use the video to play a game. First, see if you can find yourself.

Next, see if you can find these publishing all-stars in the footage, because it was a Who’s Who of publishing this summer. Some of them are named, but many go by too quickly for that. So whether you can spot them or not, go visit their websites. Check out the free samples of their books. Follow them on Facebook, send out a Tweet, or even drop them a fan letter (“charming note”) email.

The following are some names to look for: Angie Thomas, Becky Albertalli, Annie Sullivan, Jessica Strawser, Amy Reichert, Summer Heacock, Nina Sadowsky, John Gilstrap, Agent/author Eric Smith, and the list goes on, and on.

To see what course we’re currently offering online, here’s the link to MWW Ongoing. (Good News: you can still register and catch up on the lessons!) Email Director Jama at midwestwriters@yahoo.com if you have questions about the classes or if you want to join. AND get ready for October because Dianne Drake’s new course “The Building Blocks of a Great Novel” is coming down the track. Details coming soon.

Now, if this message and material has helped you, would you do us a favor? Please forward this message to a writer friend who might enjoy it. If you feel like it, suggest that they subscribe to our MWW e-newsletter.

And we would love for you to say who you spotted in the video that made you smile. Please tell us on our Facebook page.

Thanks!

Let’s all get back to writing.

Create intricate plots & unforgettable characters with Shirley Jump

MWW Ongoing

If you’ve ever wished for a way to continue growing with your writing all year long, from the comfort of your home, now you can! MWW Ongoing is a series of courses taught by award-winning writing instructors, and everything happens online. From the convenience of your computer, on your own time schedule, you can participate in classes to take your writing to the next level.

Check out our newest MWW Ongoing course taught by New York Times bestselling author Shirley Jump.

The Brainmap: A way to create intricate plots and compelling, unforgettable characters

Shirley Jump’s The Brainmap Technique develops fully formed characters before a single word is written, resulting in a stronger, more powerful–and more emotional story. This 4-week course starts Monday, Sept. 4, with each unit available on the following Mondays (Sept 11, 18, 25). Cost: $75.

Who This Course Will Help

This course is for writers who are looking for a way to plot a unique, character-driven novel. This course will cover all the pre-work needed to develop a compelling, layered character with a full history. From that, the plot will develop, thus building an intriguing novel with a strong emotional hook for the reader.

Editors love books that are character driven and have layered plots. The Brainmap Technique develops fully formed characters before a single word is written, resulting in a stronger, more powerful–and more emotional story. If you’re stuck in your writing, needing inspiration or just want to learn more about developing characters and developing a multi-layered plot, you’ll get the boost you need for this class with this technique. By the end of this workshop, participants will have everything they need to write a character-based plot that has emotional depth, character-driven conflict, and memorable page-turning twists.

What you will learn

  • How to develop a character’s past, family relationships and motivations
  • Use this to develop a character-based plot
  • An in-depth analysis of your character’s behavior and choices
  • A richer, more emotionally based book

The course is broken down into four units. Each unit is accompanied by several handouts that build on the one before. You can start using the information immediately for your current work. But you can start when you are ready. The material will be available to you until October 31. Questions about the material and how it applies to your story will be answered within the private Facebook group.

Unit One will be about getting the basics down. We will start with the basics of who your character is, based on their dominant impression, then why they are in that career. How their education impacted that choice and where it has brought them to at the start of your novel.

  1. Basics of the Brainmap
  2. Brainmap Center
  3. Brainmap Spoke One

Unit Two will take the Brainmap to a deeper level. We will discuss the multiple layers of family relationships and look at how those have impacted your character. This particular section of the brainmap is vital in shaping your character.

  1. Brainmap Spoke Two
  2. Brainmap Spoke Three
  3. Brainmap Example

Unit Three will explore past relationships and their impact on your character. What type of person they choose, how it impacted their life, and where that has brought them now. For those writing novels with a romance thread, this section will form the basis of the romantic conflict. We will also discuss the last two spokes of the brainmap to create a fully-fleshed out character.

  1. Brainmap Spoke Four
  2. Brainmap Spoke Five and Six

Unit Four will pull all those spokes together, developing a plot based on the character, one that derives from their weaknesses, strengths and greatest nightmare. This will allow the student to write a richer novel at the completion of the course.

  1. Weaknesses and Strengths
  2. Worst Nightmare

About the Instructor

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance so she can avoid the towering stack of dirty dishes, eat copious amounts of chocolate and reward herself with trips to the mall. She’s published more than 60 books in 24 countries. Look for her all-new novella in the anthology ASK ME WHY (with Marie Force, Virginia Kantra and Jodi Thomas), as well as her Sweet and Savory Romance series, including the USA Today bestselling book, THE BRIDE WORE CHOCOLATE, and her Fortune’s Island series, starting with AND THEN FOREVER. Visit her website at www.ShirleyJump.com for author news and a booklist, and follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/shirleyjump.author for giveaways and deep discussions about important things like chocolate and shoes.

Register Today!

Click HERE to register.

And be part of the community in the private Facebook Group!

5 tips for pitching to agents: Jessica Sinsheimer

Jessica Sinsheimer, with Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, shares 5 tips for meeting agents.

SinsheimerJessica Sinsheimer has been reading and campaigning for her favorite queries since 2004. Now an agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, she’s known for #MSWL, ManuscriptWishList.com, #PubTalkTV-and for drinking far too much tea. Always on the lookout for new writers, she is most excited about finding picture books, YA, MG, upmarket genre fiction (especially women’s fiction, romance, and erotica, as well as thrillers and mysteries) and-on the nonfiction side-psychology, parenting, self-help, cookbooks, memoirs, and works that speak to life in the twenty-first century. She especially likes highbrow sentences with lowbrow content, smart/nerdy protagonists, vivid descriptions of food, picture books with non-human characters, and justified acts of bravery. You can follow her on Twitter at @JSinsheim.

Jessica had a great time as a member of our 2011 faculty and said, “I’ll return any time!” So, welcome back, Jessica, to MWW17!  We asked her for tips for pitching to her . (Hint: She said the tips apply to all agents.)

5 Tips: 

Remember, agents are not robots.

I always appreciate when people acknowledge that I’m a person. Usually an undercaffeinated person who’s happy to meet lovely writing people, but a person, nonetheless, and an introvert at that. A simple “Hi, how are you? Hey, you’ve got five cups of tea there–my daughter loves English Breakfast” will go a long way toward making me like you and set you apart from the last meeting. It takes about 20 seconds and keeps me comfortable, present, and open to your work. Keep in mind that I interact with thousands of writers a year. I want each interaction to be as human, pleasant, and present as possible.

 

Think conversation, not monologue. 

Here are the things I’m most likely to ask, so you can prepare: 1) Where did you get the idea? 2) What experience do you have with the topic? 3) Who is the ideal reader for your book? 4) How is this different from other works in your genre? 5) What are your favorite books? 6) What do you do in your spare time?

 

Do your homework.

Research, research, research. It will not only ensure that you’re prepared, but calm your fears of awkward silence. Find out not only what’s on my  ManuscriptWishList.com  profile and #MSWL feed, but also some of my recent projects, especially the ones similar to yours. Read one, if you can–or, if you must, 🙂 read the free samples online. Find interviews I’ve done (just Google “Jessica Sinsheimer interview”). Visit the agency website. And knowing things like my favorite caffeinated beverage (coffee, tea, or coffee in tea–thank you, dirty chai latte), weekend activity (yoga, kayaking, and reading), and fluffy animal (I’m partial to orange cats and samoyeds) can help, too. These are all things you can use to fill any silence, so you don’t have to worry.

 

The agent and writer can be friends. 

Remember that we want to help you. Agents need writers, too. Don’t go in feeling like you’re pitching investors. Instead, think of it as a conversation about great books with a friend–it just happens to be your book, and an agent.

 

Be calm and pitch on.

Don’t be nervous. I know it’s scary, but I’m seriously 5’2″ and like to keep people around me feeling good. You can listen to the   Manuscript Academy podcast   to hear how I interact with writers and agents–that’s on iTunes and Soundcloud, and totally free. You’ll probably be less scared when you hear how peppy I am. If you want to practice, you can get plenty of one-on-one feedback on your query and first page with the new Manuscript Academy Ten Minutes With An Expert program–starting April 12, you can have ten-minute conversations one-on-one with agents and editors from home. See ManuscriptAcademy.com/ten

*** Exciting news! 

Jessica is bringing her popular the  PubTalk TV  to MWW17. On Saturday, July 22, 2017, from 3:45-4:45, she’s live streaming a session on-site with Summer Heacock (MWW planning member extraordinaire and debut author of The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky), Roseanne Wells (agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency), and Monica Odom (agent with Bradford Literary Agency).

Book Review of NATHAN’S RUN by John Gilstrap

[This post is the eighth in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

“That’s why I’m gonna keep running.” A review of Nathan’s Run by John Gilstrap

Nathan’s Run
Author: John Gilstrap
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copyright 1996 by John Gilstrap
ISBN: 0060173858
Formant: Ebook
​Genre: Thriller

Nathan Bailey wants somebody that he can trust.  By the time he is twelve he has been orphaned and left in the care of an abusive uncle, who, after learning that he won’t be able to get his hands on Nathan’s inheritance, casts his nephew into the Kafka-esque world of the juvenile justice system. Within the walls of the Juvenile Detention Center’s ‘Crisis Unit’  Nathan kills a guard in self-defense, and, seeing no better option, runs.  He gets his bearings while hiding out in a house belonging to a family that is away from home.

The severe reality of his situation dawns on Nathan  when he hears grown-ups passing judgement on him, first on cable news, and then on a Nationally syndicated radio show hosted by a woman befittingly known as “The Bitch.” The youngster becomes the most famous fugitive in the country when he calls in to the radio program and iterates his side of the story.  Knowing that he can’t stay put forever, Nathan steals a car and keeps running.  The Nation is divided, half believe that Nathan is a cold-blooded killer, and half believe he is a victim of circumstance. The pressure is on for both Nathan (who is running towards the Canadian Border for his life) and for the police force trying to capture him (with their reputation on the line.)

The perspective of “Nathan’s Run” alternates between the young fugitive and the detective in charge of finding him, Warren Michaels, whose own tragic past makes the case difficult and personal.  Michaels is torn between his belief in Nathan’s innocence and his duty to apprehend him.

“Nathan’s Run” was the first of many bestsellers by Author John Gilstrap, whose most recent publication is “Final Target (A Jonathan Grave Thriller)” which is the ninth book in the Jonathan Grave series.  Through a swift high-stakes plot, sparse fiery prose, and emotionally compelling characterization, Gilstrap has created a page-turner with a critical eye on the harsh, politicized treatment of criminals, especially young ones. Readers will find themselves emotionally invested: feeling the triumph of Nathan’s successes and cringing with defeat at each of his blunders,  hoping for a happy ending that seems more and more unlikely and far away.

By Charlie Cain

Book Review of JUST FALL by Nina Sadowsky

[This post is the seventh in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

Just Fall: A Psychological Romance by Nina Sadowsky

Murder, missing children, and a mystery of hidden pasts, Nina Sadowsky’s debut novel Just Fall will leave you breathless and asking for more.

When Ellie vowed on the night of her wedding “till death do us part” she probably assumed this would be a concern for later down the road, when her and her too good to be true husband, Rob, were both grey and old and the many experiences of the world behind them. What she never expected was for it to be the death of a strange man (by her hand at that) that would wrench their lives in different directions, sending them down a convoluted path of deceit, trickery, and a violence history both wish would remain rooted firmly in the past.

As Ellie learns about Rob’s dark past she is placed in a terrible situation where it seems there are no good choices left for her to make. In order to save her own life and the life of the man she loves, Ellie will have to cross lines she never dared thought were worth crossing, and question how far she is willing to go in order to survive. Will she kill for the man she proclaimed to love, and if she does, what kind of person will she be when all of this is over?

Mysteries of the past and present unfold, submerging Ellie in a twisted plot of murder, kidnapped children, and drug trade. The only way out is to do exactly as instructed, but before she can make it out alive she’ll have to ask herself the hardest question of all, can she really trust the man who’s criminal past has led her down this dangerous path? At every turn Ellie and Rob must question the motivations behind their own actions, as they are forced to see not just the darkness in their loved one’s past, but finally face the darkness in their own hearts that they’ve been avoiding for so long.

Nina Sadowsky’s debut novel Just Fall, takes the reader through a roller coaster of emotions, concern, desire and doubt, distrust and the ever present hope that there is some good reason behind the character’s heinous actions. The chapters are divided into Now and Then moments, giving the reader minute glimpses into the newlywed’s complicated pasts as the story of the present progresses ever forward. These small hints of painful history keep the reader eager for the next glimpse, and slowly help to unfold the answers to the many questions this twisted tale dares you to ask.

Sadowsky’s style of 3rd person narrative stems from her background as a screenwriter, providing the reader with a unique experience as she switches between a 3rd person point of view with insight into Ellie and Rob’s inner thoughts as well as the occasional, separate, impartial narrator that has the feel of an outsider looking in, trying to make sense of what they are seeing, much like how a movie goer may feel when seeing a feature film in theaters for the first time. This switching between the characters’ POV and the impartial narrator gives an extra level of complexity to the psychological evaluations of the characters actions, allowing us to see both the inner thoughts and reasoning of the characters from their own minds, as well as the questions an outsider without the knowledge of another’s thoughts might ask as they try to make sense of the motivations  behind the characters’ actions.

While the emphasis of Ellie’s physical appearance (as well as her evaluations of other characters’ physical attributes) throughout the book seems a bit excessive it is exactly what I would expect from a character who’s past has left her with crippling insecurity and feelings of being unworthy of other’s attention, let alone affections. Rob on the other hand is a surprisingly likable despite his many faults and wrong doings, and though he is far from mentally stable he exhibits one of the most important key traits in the recovery of any person who has suffered trauma or abuse, the desire and true motivation to change for the better. As we learn more about Rob’s dangerous and terrible past we can see over time how he has changed, both his decent into darkness as well as his dissatisfaction with the person he has become and his desperate, struggling attempts to change.

The one disappointing aspect of this book is that the ending was rather abrupt, having the feel of a thriller or action movie climax, which didn’t have quite achieve the same affect in book format. The turning point seemed to come on a bit sudden, especially after such a carefully planned out, slow release of information, but the suspense and gradual build up of knowledge throughout the novel more than makes up for the abruptness of the end. Overall, Just Fall, is a fascinating and gripping read, with complexity of character to capture the reader’s attention and enough mystery to keep you eager to learn more.

With a sharp attention to psychology and an accurate portrayal of motivations, Sadowsky wonderfully captured a tantalizing, and yet reasonably realistic representation of the horrors and aftermath of a traumatic and difficult life without overly romanticizing or dramatizing too much the horrors the characters lived through. Just Fall will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, ravenous for the next secret to be revealed. As a first novel and psychological thriller/romance, I’d say Just Fall is a great success.

Update July 14, 2017: If you’d like to read my interview with Nina Sadowsky you can find it here.

By Tynan Drake

Book Review: THE DRUMMOND GIRLS by Mardi Jo Link

[This post is the sixth in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

The Drummond Girls: A Review With Utmost Respect For The Women and Their Stories

Mardi Jo Link’s memoir, The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance, is a textbook example of why it is difficult to maintain friendships, but also, why it is important to do so. For an accurate comparison, imagine Thelma and Louise, but with eight women instead of two and “no cops on the [Drummond] island.” The possibilities for these ladies’ shenanigans were basically endless, but the fun and friendships cannot last forever without being tested by some things. Heart problems, tough pregnancies, rotten marriages and subsequent divorces, children growing up, and parents growing old are just some of the hardships these women face during their two decades of travel and companionship; even so, the harsh nature of Drummond island was no match for these women, and now, the world knows it too.​

This memoir was insightfully tongue-in-cheek at times, most memorably when introducing the eight ladies. “Susan is in the kitchen…mixing a cocktail. It might be her second Maker’s and Caffeine-Free Diet; it might be her fifth. Two decades in, yet it is impossible for me to tell which,” and, “I am older now than [Mary Lynn] was when she died, and I silently vow to never get myself invited to one of those [cardiac events],” are among my favorite remarks in this book, as well as my favorite introductions ever. After going on the first adventure with the original four Drummond Girls, I was not sure that the hijinks could get any better, but I am ecstatic to say I was wrong.

Link writes, “When I was just out of college, I’d always thought that by the time I reached a certain age, say fifty, my life would be pretty much set. I’d…have a couple good friends, a successful career, and my life would be settled into a comforting predictability.” Throughout the memoir, Link takes the reader on 13 trips to Drummond Island–some include more description about the trip itself, others include more about the ladies’ lives. As I progressed through the pages, they progressed in years, and the story slowly turned away from my experiences as a 20-something college student. The more I read, the more I could see my mother in the remaining pages telling me about her own experiences with her friends; this is why I fell in love with the Drummond Girls.

These eight ladies are a reminder that friendships foster over time, and when they foster, they are for life. They become family. Link continues the previous quote, “But predictability was not something I valued in my twenties, so why did I think it would be desirable thirty years into the future? Like that one, most of the assumptions I’d made back then turned out to be wrong…I could accept all of that uncertainty because I had seven constants in my life. I had the Drummond Girls. And they had me.”

The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance is first and foremost a story about friendship: the kind of friendship that needs to be documented. These eight ladies have had their share of ups and downs, as is wont to do in friendships, but they have weathered the proverbial storm together. Link’s memoir is a testament to the love and dedication people can give to one another. The Drummond Girls were #friendshipgoals before the pound sign became the hashtag, and most people can only aspire to live it up as much as these women have in their lifetimes. I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed a memoir as much as this one, and the only way to truly appreciate their story is to read it and then live it for yourself. Find your Drummond Girls and do not let fear stop you.

I’ve already found mine.

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Thank you for reading.

Title: The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance
Author: Mardi Jo Link
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Copyright: 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4555-5474-4
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Creative Nonfiction
Page Count: 269

Find it on Amazon

Book Review: THIEF OF LIES by Brenda Drake

[This post is the fifth in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

Family Secrets Bite

Title: Thief of Lies
Author: Brenda Drake
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Copyright 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63375-221-4
Format: Hardcover
Genre: YA Fantasy Fiction
Book I of a Library Jumpers series

 

Family secrets really come back and bite Gia Kearns hard in Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake. Gia and her two best friends, Afton and Nick, go to a library in Boston just like it is any other day of summer vacation, but everything they believe they know changes when Gia accidentally says an old Italian phrase over a book causing them to jump into the book and come out in a library in Paris, France.  The world really goes further upside down for the three friends when they see a hound/rhinoceros beast start to chase after them, but ends up being stopped by a group of teenagers dressed up in gladiators type gear, with swords on and everything, right before the hound beast tries to eat them. The three friends have no idea what the heck is going on.

They discover a world with dangerous creatures that want to kill all three friends for just being plain old human. Once all three of them are safely back home, they find out this isn’t the end of their exposure to this world. Gia must quickly figure out her place in this world that would label her as a danger and should be killed on site.

Arik went through the door. My heart sputtered as I scrambled up the last steps, ignoring the pain. I froze on the landing, stuck between two worlds, desperately clinging to one while called to embrace the other. If I went through the door, my mother’s stories would come true, and I could never go back.

She must become the Sentinel she was meant to be if she doesn’t want her family and friends to die at the hands of a crazy Master Wizard Conemar, who will do anything to rule both the magical and human world. Also on top of trying to save two worlds, Gia must decide whether or not to pursue a forbidden romance with another Sentinel or marry her betrothed. Both of whom she has feelings for and are ridiculously hot.

The novel’s pacing flows together really well. We get a bunch of action types scenes—different fights with different types of creatures—but in between the action scenes we get scenes where Gia starts to discover the history and the finer rules of how this world works. We get to discover these legends as Gia discovers them, which keeps readers on their toes because they only get part of a legend at a time; when it would actually be better to get the entire thing at the same time, because there is always that little detail that gets left out that affects everything.  Also the characters are so likeable. It is hard to choose which one to root for. And this doesn’t include all the relationships that are happening between everybody—secret ones or not. After all, you get a bunch of hormonal teenagers together in a life or death situation and something is bound to happen.

Fighting for what you believe in. This phrase could quickly wrap up what this story is about and help readers to connect with it, because is not this idea/concept something parents tell their children as they grow up. “Never give up your dreams,” “if you want something bad enough, then fight for it,” and “dare to dream for the impossible” are all things that I have heard from various coaches, teachers, professors, and friends in my life and this novel really brings this concept to the forefront of Gia’s life. She must take up a sword and fight for her right to live the life that she wants. She must decide when it is right to follow blindly and when it is better to forge her own path, which are life lessons every single person needs to someday learn for themselves. Thief of Lies allows readers to see that the fight might be hard and violent, but there is hope for a brighter outcome at the end of the fight.

By Abby Hoops