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Fundamentals of Descriptive Writing You Can’t Afford To Ignore

Fundamentals of Descriptive Writing You Can’t Afford To Ignore

By Leigh Holland.

Descriptive writing. For many of us, it’s the most difficult aspect of writing to wrap our heads around. I recommend keeping an imagery notebook to jot down ideas in. As this grows, you’ll have a bank of descriptions to work from in your writing.

First, let’s refresh our minds with some basics.

Why is Descriptive Writing important? Shouldn’t I trust the reader?

Absolutely trust your readers to infer things from your writing. However, people want to have an experience when they read your stories. They want to feel, think, and connect with your characters and world. To do that requires imagination. The purpose of descriptive writing is to inspire imagination within your readers.

A Few Terms

Caricature- A device used in descriptive writing and portrait art where traits of a subject are exaggerated to produce a comic effect.

Simile- Making a comparison using the words “like” or “as”. Example: She’s as pretty as a picture. He prances like a pony.

Metaphor- Figure of speech which makes an implicit or implied between two things that are unrelated but share some common characteristic. Example: She’s the black sheep of the family.

Analogy- Making a comparison between two ideas or things which may be quite different. Metaphor and simile are tools used to form analogies. Example: Just as the sword is the weapon of the warrior, the pen is the weapon of the writer.

Symbolism- Usage of symbols to express ideas and qualities by giving them meanings that are different from their literal sense. Examples of symbols in daily life include red roses for romantic love, the color black for death, mirrors for introspection, and doves for peace.

Diction- The writer’s choice of words, which change based on context or setting, creating and conveying mood, tone, atmosphere, and how the writer feels about his own work.

Weather

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Avoid using weather to match the mood of the character. Stay away from boring, normal weather. Weather imagery should be used to create atmosphere and build intensity. Extreme weather is the best type because it brings out emotions in the characters. Think about how irate people are in the heat without relief, how they snap easily at each other. Others don’t get irate but might lay back and lounge, refusing to do a thing until the heat passes or the air conditioning gets fixed. What about people snowed in on a mountain for weeks? Will they succumb to cabin fever?

Make sure when using the weather throughout a novel to keep it consistent with the changing of the seasons, the clothing worn, the storefront decorations, the foods eaten, and the general social moods. If the scene is outside, remember that the weather affects everything in the scene.

Colors

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Colors go beyond ROYGBIV. Avoid cliches like ‘rose red’ or ‘white as the driven snow’. But add detail to your color descriptions where appropriate. Here are some off the cuff examples:

Black as asphalt in a storm

Red as my commemorative “Office Space” Swingline stapler

Kentucky Blue

Pom-Pom Rah-Rah red

Oak Bark Brown

Stone Blue-Gray

Juniper green

Obsidian black

Citrine orange

Carnelian red

Tan as slightly overdone toast

Straw gold

Dandelion white

Metal Desk Gray

Haybale yellow

Okra green

Karner butterfly blue

 Exercise: Carry a notebook, journal, or just pull up a document on your phone. Write ROYGBIV, a line for each color. Write the things you see throughout the day that fall under that color. Later, spend a little time creating a database of new ways to describe colors.

Shadows and Light

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What mood do you want to evoke? Creepy? Noir? Sad? Nostalgic? Shadows and light can set the mood of your scene. What is the source of the light in the scene? Moonlight? Candles? Strobe lights and a disco ball? The hot glare of the noon day sun? A flashlight? How does the light fall on the setting and what effect does it have on the characters? When describing outdoor light, does it glint or gleam off nearby objects?

When describing light and shadow, use powerful verbs and adjectives. Is the light cool or warm? Is it harsh or soft? Does it tumble through the window and drop across the gunmetal gray floor? Does it create tiny triangles across the quilted bed, fading in and out as the dandelion white curtain flutters gently in the cool breeze?

Make sure when using this technique repeatedly to vary your descriptions.

Exercise: Throughout the day, make a note of the light and shadows in your own setting. Try to vary between outdoors, indoors, day, and night.

Details

Add detail to your descriptions. Which is more interesting?

“He walked down the street surrounded by trees.”

“He walked down the asphalt road surrounded by weeping willows.”

Word choices make a world of difference as well. Using powerful verbs and adjectives paints a fuller image.

“He strolled down the onyx asphalt road, surrounded on either side by voluminous weeping willows.”

Additionally, when writing in Deep POV, describe what the character sees and experiences. Limit the manner in which you describe things to his or her perceptions.

Exercise: Go back to a scene you’ve written. Find and circle the verbs is, was, are, or were. Can you find a stronger verb for these sentences?

Time

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While telling the reader “It was the next day when…” imparts what they need to know, it’s not exactly exciting. Show them with description how much time has passed. If it’s later in the same day, show how the shadows and light have changed, the sun’s position overhead, or have the character take a simple action such as turning on (or off) the lights. If it’s a few days later, show the change in weather, or progress in work. If it’s months later, changes in temperature, weather, clothing styles, holidays, and shop sales are all wonderful ways to show the time that has passed.

The Senses

We take in a vast amount of information through our senses every moment, albeit subconsciously. Our minds sort the data and decide which data are the most important bits to consciously experience and commit to memory. Can we add too much description to a scene? Yes, we can always add too little or too much. Description is like the flavor of the writing recipe, the dish will be vastly different depending on which combination of spices you add and in what amounts. Too little, and the characters are roaming around in the green screen of the reader’s mind. Too much, and you leave nothing to the imagination. How do we decide which bits to write about?

One of the most powerful and concise methods is to describe the smells a character experiences upon entering a scene. Think about it- we smell things continuously but only really notice and react to powerful scents. This can quickly set the mood and setting for the scene. Use this in an appropriate manner and don’t overuse the technique from scene to scene.

Another way to paint a more vibrant image is to describe background noises. Don’t list them, find concise ways to describe them. Example: The eagle, titan among birds, emitted a series of monotone, high-pitched screeches in periodic cycles. The occasional car hummed its way through the suburb.

Rachel Poli has an article covering the senses at How To Use The 5 Senses In Creative Writing.

Scene Type and Description

The Action Scene

  1. If at all possible, describe the setting for the action scene in an earlier scene. Description can interfere with action if not inserted carefully. By employing “pre-emptive imagery”, you can write the action scene without halting the action for setting description.
  2. Select a setting that has objects or items that can be used as weaponry, obstacles, or hidey-holes. This allows you to insert description into the action subtly as characters interact with their environment.
  3. Use strong, potent verb choices and short to medium length sentences. The goal is to keep up the reader’s sense of fast-paced excitement.

The Love Scene

  1. The best love scenes evoke deep emotions in the reader. The reader feels the characters’ yearning, desire, passion, and pain. Readers will never forget a scene that touched their hearts.
  2. Settings and circumstances can often force two people together who otherwise may have remained apart. For example, if your characters have chemistry but are at each other’s throats, perhaps they get separated from the group, a storm appears, they’re lost, she hurts her leg, and they have to fight for survival until rescue comes. Maybe the characters have never met and are forced together through circumstance, such as in the film Speed. These dangerous circumstances would cause them to forge an immediate bond. In Speed, they literally met earlier that day.

The Chase Scene

  1. Use high action verbs, such as dart, veer, flash, streak, panther-quick.
  2. Write about the sweat glistening on your character’s brow, his heart pounding, his breath panting. Get inside his skin and identify with him. Let us feel his determination, fear, anger, drive.
  3. Like the action scene, keep sentences shorter and use high powered verbs. Cut the adverbs.
  4. Place obstacles in his way. The setting should be interactive. Bring him close to death’s door. Alternate with hair-raising momentary escapes, keep up the suspense.
  5. Check out these scenes from The French Connection and Bullitt for inspiration.

Parting Words…

  • Don’t worry as much about description in your rough draft. You want to be patient and create vivid descriptions during the editing process.
  • Is it relevant? If you don’t need the description, no matter how pretty it is, cut it.
  • Don’t drive yourself crazy worrying about finding the perfect word. Remember, simpler is often better.
  • Happy Writing!

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt, 280 pages, March 17th 2017, Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

This book is the first in a planned trilogy. The Earth Mother Gaia is sentient, alive, and moving in mysterious ways to influence the life that resides in her surface. Although Gaia elevated mankind to the top of the food chain, she kept another species in reserve should they prove unworthy. This hidden species, the Tethyans, appears human when moving among humans. They’re intuitive and sensitive to the will of Gaia.

We follow Avery as she goes through life with a plan. The plan largely involves following the path laid out for her by her deceased parents. Since her parents died, she feels adrift without a compass. Avery meets Beck and they grow ever fonder of each other. Their romance is set against the backdrop of a hidden fantasy world with its own agenda. Avery searches for answers about her parents and her past. She discovers she is part of the hidden world. Avery worries about how this will affect her relationship with Beck, whom she has fallen hard for. Beck is supportive and self-sacrificing where Avery is concerned. At several points, as Avery learns more about her identity and origins, she rejects the world of the Tethyans. Yet she comes back every time, despite the uneasiness she feels, sensing she must continue on this path. Avery believes in destiny, has intuition, and follows her hunches. Avery and Beck are encouraged by the Tethyans to be together and her fear of what the path may do to their relationship fades. As we learn about Avery, we learn about the Tethyans and their culture alongside her. It’s a lot of information to impart to the reader and Burt does a great job of weaving it into Avery’s journey.

I loved the concept that the hidden species are the basis for many of our seafaring myths, such as sirens and mermaids. The world of humans is based on the traits that Western culture considers masculine: competition, physical strength, male dominance, and violent behavior. The world of Tethyans is based on what Western culture deems are traditionally feminine traits: cooperation, intuition, emotional strength, and pacifism (the exception is Andromeda, their defense forces). The book accepts this divide without question and makes the two cultures the opposite image of the other. Women are therefore in power in the Tethyan culture. There are also different groups with different missions within the culture, such as the Primals, Progenitors, and Andromeda. Chapters switch between the story of Avery, Beck, and their romance and journey of discovery, and the story of the women of Andromeda, elite female forces keeping the world and environment safe from powerful, wicked male corporate elitists. Each fighter of Andromeda is unique and has her own special powers which are often used against their enemies. I found both storylines interesting.

One of the things I found surprising was how easily Avery and Beck accepted the Tethyan world in the end after discovering the Tethyans never seem to question what they consider Gaia’s commands. They had reservations earlier, but not at this point, which struck me as odd. Tethyans will give up anything and anyone they must in order to fulfill their mission on behalf of Gaia. Gaia is presented as a goddess-force that imparts intuitions and is the source of the Tethyan mission. This zealotry was a disturbing part of their culture. There were times when I wasn’t sure if what I was reading was primarily a romance or a fantasy novel. It took a while for the two stories to connect and intertwine. By the end, I decided this is a Fantasy novel about two people who happen to fall in love while finding out they’re part of the Tethyan world and its mission.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Gaia’s Majesty. The concept was intriguing. I wish there had been more description and exploration of the underwater cities. I would’ve liked to have seen more interaction between the undersea folk and Avery and Beck. Hopefully, this will be explored further in the next novel in the series.

You can find this book at Gaia’s Majesty: Mission Called.

Book Description

From the Back Cover

Gaia’s Majesty : Mission Called – Women in Power

The first book of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy

 Our earth mother, Gaia, was intrigued by clever creatures developing on her Earth. She believed they held promise but also danger for themselves and her planet.

Wisely Gaia reserved a gifted population of women dedicated to safeguarding the future of humankind and Earth. The women called Progenitors lived in the sea and could transform to live on the land if they chose. Their families on land were called Primals. Among them were a defense force of women called the Andromeda. Collectively these people were called Tethyans.

She foresaw a definitive epoch which is now upon us. Our planet is enveloped in environmental and social crises. Unless humankind serves as stewards for Earth and ourselves we may live on a despoiled planet as people held in bondage by a wealthy class of plutocrats. The empowerment of women holds the key to our future.

Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy explores if Gaia’s preparations will succeed. Is this story a myth, or like so many myths, does it reside on the cusp of reality?

Gaia Speaks

You used to adore me. You took my bounty gratefully and before my loving sight developed your skills as will a child in the sight of mother. You worshipped me and my fruitfulness. I tested you with adversity which made you strong. But in time you selfishly saw Earth’s bounty as your due. You now have a choice between stewardship or devastation.

From the Author

Women are coming to power. It is happening just as we enter a world environmental crisis of biblical proportions. We may disagree over the origins of our environmental crisis but its reality is demanding our attention. What will it mean that women are coming to power at this moment? One glorious benefit of the empowerment of women is that it opens us to a true and wonderful partnership between men and women

The Majesty Trilogy, of which this book is the first, falls on the cusp of reality. Environmental crisis and the empowerment of women are real but can be illuminated in fiction which has a mythological cast to it. In these books we embark on a fantasy journey where women take the lead in a planet which is being transformed. Whether that transformation is for the benefit of humankind or is a tragedy is yet to be decided.

Our earth mother, Gaia, knew this day would come as her most clever animals matured. She knew it might be necessary to start over if her experiment with humans failed. She created cities in the sea occupied predominately by women who could live in the water or on the land. We may have sighted them and know them as mermaids. But we have not known their import. They are at the forefront of empowerment and are opposed by powerful and immensely wealthy plutocratic men known as the Overlords.

Join us in this story as we venture to cleanse our planet and to empower women so together we may have a glorious partnership for men and women and possibly a transformative future.

Author Biography

When Duke University granted me a Ph.D. in clinical psychology it was time to go out beyond academia. I chose to work in the inner city of Baltimore in a community mental health program. My experience there was a wholly new form of learning. Daily I was confronted with the dire effects of deep poverty. It changed my life and view of the world.

Over time other elements in my education crept forward. The teachings of Leslie White about culture took on a new meaning and the depth of the studies of Carl Jung arose. Over decades I found myself assessing the meaning of cultural flow and the importance of myth in our lives. I took on a commitment to stewardship and came to see that the empowerment of women was essential to the future of humankind.

Later in life they all flowed together in the creation of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. Myth was not some abstraction but living elements of human existence. Psychology taught me there were elemental forces deep inside of us which ruled our lives but were largely unrecognized or at least not given their due. I wondered about such things as stories of mermaids which showed up across so many cultures. And I found issues of culture and myth showing up in my clinical work. My thoughts went deep into how they might relate to current human and ecological crises.

Much of my reaction seemed to be developing unconsciously until the day when the story of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy began to flow onto my computer. I have become convinced that deep unrecognized forces within us direct our lives and our cultures. I also became convinced that we do, indeed, live on the cusp of reality. My reality is different from your reality and we struggle to reach a workable common ground. And at this time we face unparalleled ecological crises. It seems that the rise of women and their empowerment are a crucial part of what has come to be a denouement in the story of humankind. The empowerment of women should at last lead to true partnership between men and women. Is it possible we may be moving toward a remarkable transformation? What it might be can only be the subject of a “what if”.

In these books I try to create an engagement for consideration of what may be happening to us. While the trilogy is fiction, its mythological cloak gives it a special relief and begs us to consider what may be happening to us and where we might be going. Is humankind to be led into terrible poverty and bondage where an economic elite will rule and will we also despoil the very planet on which we live and depend?

Come to the adventure in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy and join in considering what it might say about our future.

And please join us for the commentary and discussion on the website www.cuspofreality.com.

Other Works

Other works (non-fiction) can be found at:

Stepfamilies: The Step By Step Model of Brief Therapy by Mala S. Burt and Roger B. Burt

Creating Characters and Plot: Secrets of a Jungian Toolbox to Guide Inspiration by Roger B. Burt PhD

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples In Partnership by Mala S. Burt and Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened To Community Mental Health?

 

Why You Should Be Writing Short Fiction

Why You Should Be Writing Short Fiction

By Leigh Holland.

The novel. It’s such a massive project. There’s outlining, character arcs, pacing, setting, and am I the only person who’s ever taken days to pick the perfect names for characters? How do we find the time to work, take care of our homes and yards and kids, have a social life, and still find time to write a novel? Sometimes it can seem like a slogging chore instead of the passion fruit of our joyful, inspired labor. We want that gleaming, finished product of our imagination to be ready now rather than later.

I’m not saying to stop writing your novel. Keep at it, by all means! But you don’t have to wait until your novel is complete to create and publish another project. Sure, people want novels.  But I love picking up a short read that can entertain me through my lunch break. I’m not alone. There’s a market out there for short stories.

Short fiction helps readers discover you. How does that work? For Amazon, the more published works you have available, the more likely it is that someone will find one of your books. If they like it, they may buy more. This leads to your books showing up more often in Amazon’s recommendation queue, which in turn leads to even more work being found by readers.

It’s helpful if at least one of your short fiction tales sells for .99 cents. You’ll make .30 cents on each copy, but most people will spend .99 cents on anything that looks interesting. You want to eliminate their reason to not buy one (or more) of your books. It helps get your book in front of the reader and if they enjoy it, they’ll buy other works from you. Once you’re ready to publish your novel, this will help you sell the novel because you’ve established a base of readers who already enjoy your work.

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How much should you charge for short fiction? Most people would consider it fair to charge .99 cents to $1.99 for a story under 10,000 words. Most short stories run around 5,000 words. Let’s say you write 2 short stories per month. After one year, you have published 24 short stories at an average price point of 1.50 per copy, of which you’d keep about .45 cents. Even if you sold one copy of each book per day the following year, that’s over $3,500 you’d earn from those stories in one year. Now, I’m not saying money should be the focus when you write books- I’m saying that those short stories can have added financial benefits. Once you’ve published several stories in a genre, pull them together into a larger collection. Price the collection at less than the sum of the individual stories.

Additionally, run giveaways once every three to six months. Offering stories for free helps build up your readership. This can also be helpful in trying to obtain honest reviews from readers.

Apart from marketing, platform building, and sales strategies, there are artistic benefits to writing short fiction regularly. If you want to expand on a minor character from one of your published novels, a short story is a wonderful way to do that. If you loved the world you created in a novel but felt you didn’t have a chance to explore it further, short fiction is another way to expand and explore that fictional world. Want to write the prequel for your hero, but there’s not enough material for a novel? Are you worried it’s still too much for a short story? Try writing a novella. The lengths for different types of fiction can be found at Ironclad Ways To Increase Your Word Count.

Suffering from writer’s block as you work on your main novel? After trying these tips, check out some writing prompts. Find one that inspires you and write a short story or piece of flash fiction (under 2,000 words, flash fiction is typically about 500 words). It can help break you out of that cycle and get you back to writing productively.

Happy writing!

Some Sites Where You Can Sell Short Fiction (Check Their Submission Guidelines)

May and September Only: AGNI

American Short Fiction

Asimov’s

Clarkes’ World Magazine

Daily Science Fiction

Devilfish Review

Flash Fiction Online

Giganotosaurus

Glimmertrain

Strange Horizons

Vestal Review

Archetypes of the Hero’s Journey #6: The Shapeshifter

Archetypes of the Hero’s Journey #6: The Shapeshifter

In part six, we talk about the role of the Shapeshifter in the Hero’s Journey. The Shapeshifter role can be two-faced, changeable, and mysterious. This transformational power brings tension and doubt into the story. The transformation can be literal and physical. It can be spiritual or emotional. It can encompass both the seen and unseen nature of the Shapeshifter character. In romance and subplotting, the love interest of the hero often takes on this role. The femme fatale is an example of this role.

Additionally, a character may switch roles throughout the narrative. A character may be the herald, then the mentor, then the shapeshifter, and finally reveal himself to be the shadow. There’s no rule against one character playing multiple roles in the journey.

The shapeshifter hides their true nature from the hero. The shapeshifter keeps the hero and reader wondering whose side they’re really on. Usually, the shapeshifter is on the shapeshifter’s side. Because the reader isn’t sure about the shapeshifter’s loyalties and motives, this character brings tension, frustration, and intrigue to the story.

According to Carl Jung, inside each human being there’s an alternate gender-force. For men this is the feminine side or “anima”, for women, we have the masculine side or “animus”. Society has taught women to hide masculine traits such as ambition, boldness, and power. It’s also taught men to shove down traits that are traditionally viewed as feminine, such as intuition and emotional sensitivity. In the shapeshifter, we see these traits of our own being. We impose this on the role and in this fashion, safely explore it. This isn’t just true of exploring in a romantic context; we also explore our wild side in the primal nature of the werewolf, our dark side in the cursed werewolf who can’t control his killing. Through the shapeshifter role, we are able to relate to hidden pieces of ourselves that we usually don’t explore from day to day. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we compartmentalize and wear masks around others every day. The shapeshifter role shows us masks; and at some point, reveals what’s behind them.

A wonderful example of projection of the anima occurs in the Hitchcock classic 1958 movie, Vertigo. (This also happens to be one of my favorite films!) In Vertigo, private detective Scottie Ferguson takes a job watching the suicidal wife of an old friend. He falls madly in love with her and tries to save her from a family curse, ultimately failing because of his vertigo. After he’s released from an institution six months later, he happens to see a woman-Judy- who bears a striking resemblance to his dear yet dead Madeleine. Obsessed, Scottie takes care of her, buys her things, and ultimately changes her appearance until she looks exactly like Madeleine. Here are a couple of videos that capture this transformation:

Transformation

Runaway , a fan video

Madeleine’s final touch

Who is Judy? Why does she look like Madeleine? What’s scarier, the fact she looks exactly like her, or how far Scottie’s obsession drives him in transforming her? Can he trust his lover?

What happens when we can’t trust our lover? Will the shapeshifter betray us? Love us? Save us? Destroy us? Both? This tension brings vital suspense to the tale.

The femme fatale is a classic, if overused, example of the archetype. Who can forget Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, or in Total Recall:

Total Recall Trailer

While some femme fatale try to murder the hero or lead him into fatal danger, this is not needed for the character to be a shapeshifter. Both the shapeshifter and femme fatale criteria can be met by confusing, distracting, or tempting the hero away from his true quest.

Shapeshifters don’t have to be femme fatale, or femme at all. Male characters can easily serve in this dramatic role. One example is Han Solo from Star Wars. When we first meet Han, we learn that Han is all about himself. He’s in it for Han. It’s only as the movies progress that Han’s character arc changes and he reveals that yes, he’s the shapeshifter, and man, can he ever change. He saves lives, both of friends and strangers, and starts to be in it for more than just Han. He cares and starts putting others first. I believe this rehabilitation of his shapeshifter nature is one of the reasons for the “Who shot first?” debate that rages on. (It wasn’t Greedo. Han wasn’t always the good guy we come to adore, he was a shapeshifter before he transformed).

Who Shot First?

And finally, here is a classic example of a literal shapeshifter. Powerful. Mysterious. Potentially deadly. Maybe friend, maybe foe, maybe our true love.

I love you, David.

The source for this material is Christopher Vogler’s  The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition.

If interested in purchasing any of these wonderful films, they can be found at:

Vertigo (on Bluray)

An American Werewolf In London (bluray)

Total Recall (classic)

Here are the articles in this series:

#1 The Hero

#2 The Journey

#3 The Mentor

#4 The Threshold Guardian

#5 The Herald

Once Taken (A Riley Paige Mystery-Book 2) by Blake Pierce

Once Taken (A Riley Paige Mystery-Book 2) by Blake Pierce, 235 pages, February 14th 2016, Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Once Taken is a double story, both building on each other in a progressing character arc for FBI Special Agent Riley Paige. I was engaged from start to finish. When one plot resolved, the other had already captivated me. The heart of this book is its main character, Riley Paige, and the unfolding exploration of her darker side.

Riley is divorced from Ryan, a self-important big-time lawyer. She has a teenage, rebellious daughter named April. And she’s haunted by the idea that her serial killing tormentor and nemesis, Peterson, may have survived their last encounter. She has several years under her belt and when Lucy Vargas, the new kid on the block, is assigned to the next case alongside her, she worries it’ll compromise the investigation having a rookie on the case. Riley becomes particularly dedicated to the next case, as the victims are hung and posed after their deaths by throat slitting. This reminds her of Marie, a woman who took her own life by hanging in association with the Peterson case.

After a break-in, Riley makes it known she thinks it was Peterson. The FBI believes he’s dead and the other officers think Riley’s lost her mind. However, while she and Lucy are investigating the serial killings in Reedsport, New York, she gets an urgent text from April. Reluctantly, she returns home to discover Ryan lost track of April. April has been kidnapped and Riley is certain Peterson took her. Her best friend and former partner, Bill Jeffreys, returns to help her find April before it’s too late. Meanwhile, April is a chip off the block, doing whatever it takes to escape Peterson before he murders her. The climax of the first story leaves Riley questioning her motives and moral compass.

My favorite character is Riley. Riley is easy to relate to. She’s realistic, human, and flawed. She’d do anything to protect her daughter. She’s driven to do whatever it takes to bring down the killer, even if it skirts crossing the line. Riley tiptoes over the line more than once in this book. Will Riley be in danger of fully embracing her dark side? Will she one day turn into what she hates? I also enjoyed her discussions with Hatcher, an imprisoned criminal and killer with insights into the psychology of killing, particularly with chains. Hatcher possesses an uncanny ability to empathize with cops and killers alike. This allows him to play mind games with them if they’re not careful.

I enjoyed Once Taken and would recommend it to readers of crime thrillers.

There are ten books in this series at the present time. You can find them (in order) here:

Once Gone A free download with over 800  5 star reviews!

Once Taken

Once Craved

Once Lured

Once Hunted

Once Pined

Once Forsaken

Once Cold

Once Stalked

Once Lost

Book Synopsis

ONCE TAKEN is book #2 in the bestselling Riley Paige mystery series, which begins with ONCE GONE (Book #1)–a free download with over 800 five star reviews!

Women are being murdered in upstate New York, their bodies found mysteriously hanging in chains. With the FBI called in, given the bizarre nature of the murders—and the lack of any clues—there is only one agent they can turn to: Special Agent Riley Paige.

Riley, reeling from her last case, is reluctant to take on a new one, since she is still convinced a former serial killer is out there, stalking her. She knows, though, that her ability to enter a serial killer’s mind and her obsessive nature is what will be needed to crack this case, and she just can’t refuse—even if it will push her over the edge.

Riley’s search takes her deep into a killer’s deluded mind as it leads her to orphanages, mental hospitals, prisons, all in an effort to understand the depth of his psychosis. Realizing she is up against a true psychopath, she knows time is short before he strikes again. But with her own job on the line and her own family a target, and with her fragile psyche collapsing, it may all be too much for her—and too late.

A dark psychological thriller with heart-pounding suspense, ONCE TAKEN is book #2 in a riveting new series—with a beloved new character—that will leave you turning pages late into the night.

Book #3 in the Riley Paige series–ONCE CRAVED–is also available!

About the Author

Blake Pierce is author of the bestselling RILEY PAGE mystery series, which include the mystery suspense thrillers ONCE GONE (book #1), ONCE TAKEN (book #2), ONCE CRAVED (#3) and ONCE LURED (#4). Blake Pierce is also the author of the MACKENZIE WHITE mystery series and AVERY BLACK mystery series.

An avid reader and lifelong fan of the mystery and thriller genres, Blake loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit blakepierceauthor.com to learn more and stay in touch.

Check out other reviews at:

Once Taken at The Forensic Bibliophile

Once Taken at My Little Book Blog

What’s Your Ikigai?

What’s Your Ikigai?

By Leigh Holland

Recently, my friend hit a wall. She struggled between trying to decide which things to write about. Should she write something she knew would sell, or should she write something she was passionate about? She’d gotten it into her head that these two things could never match up. I wondered how I could help.

Looking for inspiration and resolution, I did what most writers do: I surfed the internet. I discovered this Japanese concept called “Ikigai”. Ikigai is your reason for being and doing.

IkigaiImage from TheViewInside.

Your Ikigai lay at the center of four overlapping circles. I imagine four rivers meeting and forming waterfalls, their water pouring nourishment into the central pool of the spirit. When we receive a steady flow from all four rivers, we’re achieving our ikigai. We’re able to do what we love, what we’re good at, fulfill the needs of others, and make at least a basic income.

Most writers would answer that their ikigai is writing. After all, they’re passionate about it. They strive to be good at it and continuously improve. But sometimes, the imaginary-yet-all-too-real entity Hope Crusher whispers to us. She says, “It’s not good enough, it’s not what people want, it’s never going to sell.” And when we listen to Hope Crusher, we paralyze ourselves. Hope Crusher rolls out the writer’s block, damming up one or more of our ikigai rivers. Dust settles on our unfinished rough draft as we are consumed by doubt.

What are we to do?

Some suggestions can be found at my article Breaking Down The Wall.

Another idea is to get that water flowing again by reminding yourself of the following:

  1. Why do I write? What is it about writing that I love so much I don’t want to do anything else?
  2. Am I writing a story that has meaning for myself and for others? Is its theme meaningful? What do I want to say about my theme/themes?
  3. If you’re not sure how to answer #2 above, ask yourself “What has been my greatest struggle?” Follow it up with, “What did I learn from it?” Don’t think “nobody wants to hear about that”. You have the power to weave beautiful meanings in a pattern of words. Bring me along for your journey. Inspire me. Make me feel. Show me things that will broaden my thinking and feeling about the world. The stories that stick with us have enduring themes and elicit emotion.
  4. Having done this, formulate your statement of purpose. Write it down as a talisman to ward off Hope Crusher the next time she tries to come around.

May you find and always live out your ikigai.

Anxiety Girl by Lacey London

Great Message!

Anxiety Girl by Lacey London, 333 pages, SSO Publishing, March 23rd 2017, Genre: Literature & Fiction/Social and Family Issues. Warning: Contains Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“I don’t need help. I don’t have depression, anxiety, or any of the other scary words Aldo was spouting last night. I just need to have a positive mental attitude, that’s all.”

Sadie Valentine had a life many would be envious of. Her mother won the lottery in her youth and she’s always been financially secure. She’s never had to worry about how she’d pay for the basics of life. Her mother even bought Sadie a lavish, large, upscale apartment. Attractive, young, healthy, and stylish, Sadie Valentine should be on top of the world. Right?

Changes happen faster than Sadie can wrap her head around them. Her fiance breaks off the relationship and tosses her out. Her artwork’s venue ends their business arrangement, cutting off her personal source of income, and she’s unable to find a new one. Her relationship with her mother is distant; her mother’s idea of warmth is to fly herself to Cancun and improve her tan. Unable to figure out what went wrong in her break-up with Spencer, Sadie goes on drinking binges and serial dates. Nothing seems to lift her mood. After further negative events, Sadie begins suffering from anxiety attacks.

I found Sadie likable. I became frustrated with her inability to see that her girlfriends weren’t worth her time and weren’t really her friends. Those three vipers deserve each other. My favorite character was Aldo. A true, loyal, concerned friend, Aldo had heart. I enjoyed traveling along Sadie’s journey with her and seeing her personal transformation.

London does an excellent job of describing what those with anxiety suffer. I was impressed by how accurate the descriptions were. Sadie begins her journey with mythical thinking about anxiety and looking at mental illness as a personal deficit of her own character. She doesn’t want medication as she believes this will make it real. Sadie doesn’t want to believe what’s happening to her is real. She tries to be “strong” by keeping her feelings bottled up and her condition hidden. Along the way, Sadie learns that reacting this way only makes her suffering worse.

I enjoyed reading Anxiety Girl. Its core message is that if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, seek help for what you’re going through, because you’re not alone in this struggle. There’s hope and there’s help. Seeking help doesn’t mean you’re weak-it means you’re stronger than you know. That’s a message I can certainly get behind.

This book can be found at Anxiety Girl.

Book Description

From the best-selling author of the CLARA ANDREWS series!

 Sadie Valentine was just like you and I, or so she was…

Loving life in the glitzy village of Alderley Edge, Sadie Valentine thought she had it all.

With her gay best friend, Aldo, for company, Sadie spends her time sipping bubbles amongst the glitterati in her many local bars and restaurants.

However, unbeknown to the outside world, Sadie is battling a broken heart.

Keeping her mask in place on a daily basis proves harder than Sadie anticipates and when she is dealt more blows, her positive exterior starts to crumble.

Sadie soon realises that sometimes, it’s not quite as simple as picking yourself up and carrying on.

Once a normal-ish woman, her mental health wasn’t something that Sadie ever thought about, but when the three evils, anxiety, panic and depression creep into her life, Sadie wonders if she will ever see the light again.

With Aldo by her side, can Sadie crawl out of the impossibly dark hole and take back control of her life?

Once you have hit rock bottom, there’s only one way to go…

The characters in this novel might be fictitious, but the feelings and emotions experienced are very real.

Lacey London has spoken publicly about her own struggles with anxiety and hopes that Sadie will help other sufferers realise that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

About the Author

Lacey London is the bestselling author of THE CLARA ANDREWS SERIES and ANXIETY GIRL SERIES.

Lacey’s latest novel in the Anxiety Girl series, Anxiety Girl Falls Again, is available to order from Amazon Worldwide in ebook and paperback now.

Lacey London lives in Cheshire, England with her husband and their Yorkshire Terrier. When she is not writing, she can usually be found in one of Alderley Edge’s many bars or restaurants. Failing that, she is probably sleeping. Lacey loves fairy-tales and hates numbers, except the ones in her bank account.

Books in the Clara Series: MEET CLARA ANDREWS, CLARA MEETS THE PARENTS, MEET CLARA MORGAN, CLARA AT CHRISTMAS, MEET BABY MORGAN, CLARA IN THE CARIBBEAN, CLARA IN AMERICA, CLARA IN THE MIDDLE AND CLARA’S LAST CHRISTMAS

Books in the Anxiety Girl Series: ANXIETY GIRL and ANXIETY GIRL FALLS AGAIN.

Lacey can be found on Twitter @thelaceylondon and at http://www.laceylondon.co.uk

Check out a few other reviews for this book at:

Anxiety Girl at Platinum Diaries

Anxiety Girl at The Review Author

Anxiety Girl at Craig Shepherd