December 13, 2022
Note From Rochelle
I have some amazing offerings for you this coming year!
My Writing Accountability Group is back. This is an amazing way to stay committed to your writing and learn more about you and your writing life and style. Check out the Writing Group page for more information.
I am also offering a Blog Your Book Writing Workshop for people who want to both write a book and start a blog! This class helps you design a book that you can write as a series of blog posts—and then publish as a book. Check out the BLOG YOUR BOOK class page to learn the details
Today’s post offers writing tips and book recommendations from me and some of my writing friends!
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
Write Now! Coach
Holiday Book Recommendations
& Writing Advice
I read a lot–over 100 books a year. But my friends read even more. So I invited them to stop by and share with you book recommendations and writing tips. Read on to learn their favorite books, wise advice, and the books they’ve written.
For readers looking for a gripping, heartrending family drama
Pick up Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro (try the audio version, which is read by the author, making it even better). Set in the long-ago world of 1985, this novel is centered on two families who live across the street from one another in suburban Connecticut. It tells the story of a car accident involving three teenagers, with profound effects on everyone and everything that comes after. Shapiro weaves together characters and storylines, deftly outlining the connections between characters. She also manages to draw the reader in, making them a part of this breathtaking novel.
For readers who want witchy fiction with deep magic and hope
It’s been a while since I totally fell into a new world, but that’s what happened with Alix Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches. The three Eastwood sisters have lost track of each other over the years, but find themselves thrown together again just as a wave of magic shocks the puritanical city of New Salem. The plot follows their attempts to turn back a tide of oppression to bring about a better world. Harrow is a skillful writer and does a splendid job of drawing both the main characters and the many figures in the supporting cast. Set in an alternate Victorian America under the thumb of a harsh patriarchy, this novel feels uncomfortably plausible. Perfect for readers looking for The Handmaid’s Tale, but with magic and more hope.
For the reader who just wants a sweet story to make their heart ache
Read The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin. Seventeen-year-old Lenni and eighty-three-year-old Margot have one hundred years between them. They vow to relive them together as they wait for their deaths in the terminal ward at the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital. They do this via pictures they draw and paint for each other while their friendship blooms and they create a lasting mark on not only each other, but those around them. It sounds sad – and of course there’s that – but more so, there’s hope and life and sweetness in these pages.
For the eclectic reader who ranges (like me) from picture books to MG to literary fiction to poetry.
Don’t miss Dane Liu’s Friends are Friends Forever (illustrated by Lynn Scurfield) — a picture book meditation on friendship. It chokes me up, in a good way, every time I read it. Kirsten Pendreigh’s Luna’s Green Pet (illustrated by Carmen Mok) is also a special story – and not just because the pet is named Stephanie!
Looking for a gem MG historical novel? Grab Veera Hiranandani’s How to Find What You’re Not Looking For. Ariel Goldberg finds her voice in a world filled with antisemitism, racial prejudice, and love. A good book for readers of any age.
For “anyone who could use a break.”
Read A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1) by Becky Chambers
I stole that lede from the author’s dedication.
Set in a post-industrial world, in which humans and robots have agreed to live separately, the tea monk Dex meets a robot who wants to learn more about humans. But Dex is having an existential crisis:
“I’m tired,” Dex said softly. “My work doesn’t satisfy me like it used to, and I don’t know why. I was so sick of it that I did a stupid, dangerous thing, and now that I’ve done it, I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know what I thought I’d find out here, because I don’t know what I’m looking for. I can’t stay here, but I’m scared about going back and having that feeling pick right back up where it left off. I’m scared, and I’m lost, and I don’t know what to do.”
Pick up this quiet tale of friendship and longing, pour yourself a cup of tea, and think big thoughts.
Do not stop writing. When you hit a rough spot, it’s very easy to walk away and tell yourself you’ll come back to it. Guess what? You’ll avoid it, because if it was easy to come back to, you never would have left. Keep writing through a sticky plot issue by writing dumb stuff: have your character ask the question you’re asking. Offer a list of possible answers. Argue with yourself on the page (don’t worry, you’ll delete all of this later, in the editing phase). Putting the words on the page can really clarify the problem and help you figure out a solution. And if that still doesn’t work, go make yourself more coffee!
Bracket It! When drafting, it’s far too easy to get distracted by research. Don’t fall into this trap. When you hit a spot where you need to think or research to fill in the blanks, just put a short reminder in brackets and then go back later after you’re done drafting. For example, today I wrote ‘He retorted, “That would leave me looking like a well-wrapped mummy [TK did they know about mummies in 1816 Edinburough?].”’ The “TK” is key — almost no English words contain the letter sequence “tk”, which makes it very easy to find in your document with the search function. Now go write!
Relax, sink into that chair, and pants it. If you haven’t heard of this before, it means going in (nearly) blind. The focus is then cause and effect—what the main character would do next, how they react to circumstances beyond their control, and how they reach for what they want. This helps character agency and plot movement. It also allows for you to throw terrible things at them and not worry about how it will tie up later. Trust yourself, that you’ll
figure it out when you get there, and give pantsing a try.
Are you feeling stuck writing? What about some generative writing prompts? In the run up to NaNoWriMo, I was part of a Nano noodling group. Even though I didn’t do NaNo because Treasure Hunt came out on November 1, I found the writing prompts very helpful. My favorite prompts came as a pair. Ask yours
elf “What do you want to be sure to include in your book? – how do you want the reader to feel?” And its mate: “What do you want to make sure will NOT be in your book? – What bugs you as a reader?” Set a timer and write for 20 minutes.
These prompts offer the chance to think deeply about where you want your WIP to end up for the reader and for you.
I’m stealing my advice fro
m a book, Pezadita Fighting Fish by Maud Wagner
“For now this was the plan: They would not sleepwalk through their days. They would keep their eyes open for opportunities.
Each night they would report back with something that had piqued their curiosity, made the day more satisfying, stimulating, purposeful or fun or otherwise life-giving.
Presumably, when they’d gathered enough observations, all those little inklings would start to form a picture. And that picture would be a map to their futures.” (236)
That’s your assignment, people. Keep your eyes peeled for ideas and stories and bits and bobs of set decoration. Then write it down—on your phone, in a notebook, or even on an index card. Mine these notes every day when you write. They will become your map to your future story.
About the authors
Juneau Black is the pen name of authors Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel. They share a love of excellent bookshops, fine cheeses, and good murders (in fictional form only). Though they are two separate people, if you ask either of them a question about their childhood, you are likely to get the same answer. This is a little unnerving for any number of reasons.
Shady Hollow is the first book in their charming mystery series. You can get it in print, audio, or digital format. Buy it from your local indie bookstore if you can, or ask your library to order it! We also suggest that in this festive season, you grab our 99 cent holiday short Evergreen Chase, set in the world of Shady Hollow. It’s available in ebook only: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/710081/evergreen-chase-by-juneau-black/
Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and our very own website:
Elizabeth Cole writes historical romance set in medieval as well as Regency England. She lives with her beloved in a small house in Philadelphia. Her Secrets of the Zodiac series is like Jane Austen crossed with James Bond, and if you want some smart, sassy, sexy escapist reading, you should start with A Heartless Design, the first in the series. Or be brave and dive in with the latest release A Fearless Heart. Find all her books by going to elizabethcole.co and clicking on “Books.” You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram
J. Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She now writes young adult and women’s fiction novels full time, wishes she were an expert linguist, and enjoys exploring with her husband and two daughters. Her novel TRIPLICITY won Moonbeam and Readers’ Favorite awards, while AFTER THEY GO and SHADY WOODS received perfect scores from the BookLife Prize, an indie arm of Publisher’s Weekly. Coming in 2023 will be the rest of the Shady Woods series and a young adult contemporary titled IN ONE LIFE AND OUT ANOTHER. For updates and news, you can find her on Facebook, but she’s more often on Instagram @jmercerbooks, talking about what she’s reading and other bookish things.
Stephanie Wildman’s most recent picture book, Treasure Hunt (illustrated by Estefania Razo; translated into Spanish as Búsqueda del Tesoro by Cecilia Pópulus-Eudave) features twins Flor and Roberto searching for treasure hidden by older brother Luis. Why did Luis save that giant cardboard box? She also wrote Brave in the Water (2021) (illustrated by Jenni Feidler-Aguilar; translated into Spanish as Valiente en el Agua by Cecilia Populus-Eudave). Stephanie is a grandmother, mother, spouse, friend, good listener, and she can sit “criss-cross apple sauce” thanks to her yoga practice. Learn more about her other books at stephaniewildman.com.
Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. Melander is the author of 12 books including Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity and the award-winning Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing. As the owner of Write Now! Coach, Rochelle teaches writers, professionals, and business owners how to design a writing life, turn their ideas into life-changing books, and navigate the publishing world. Find her online at writenowcoach.com and on social media @WriteNowCoach