Here’s the synopsis, and below that, the links to purchase. If you enjoy the story, please share with your Facebook communities, and consider writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads or both.
Tag Archives: fiction
Here is my book cover for my novel, Unleashed, coming out this fall! It captures exactly the feeling I wanted for the story I tell. A synopsis follows the photo:
If you are interested, please email me at email@example.com and I’ll notify you when it’s available on Amazon!
After her father’s death, eleven-year-old Rowan Graham wrestles with depression. Carolina, her mother, looks for a way to ease her daughter’s grief and decides to adopt another dog. Rowan chooses a wolfhound-deerhound mix and believes she and the pup, Zephyr, communicate through mind-pictures, a phenomenon that her mom rejects.
While vacationing, the family is embroiled in a multi-car accident; Zephyr is pitched from the van and bolts into the wilds of central Oregon. Medics airlift comatose Rowan to Portland for head trauma care.
Best-selling author Moss Westbury is haunted by devastating nightmares. A veteran of the Afghanistan conflict, he writes to expunge his demons. When his nightmares are fueled by unfamiliar howling on his isolated land, he sets out to find the culprit.
Unleashed is a story of devastation, courage, and love, told through the eyes of Moss, Rowan, Carolyn, and Zephyr—each struggling to resolve challenges and fears.
In addition to hooking our readers in the first couple of paragraphs, our writing needs to have verisimilitude—whether we’re writing memoir or fiction, it needs to be believable, smooth, and carry the reader into the dream of our story. Paying attention to these six points can help this happen:
- Correct use of words—nothing will throw the reader out of the story faster than incorrect word usage. Know the difference between effect and affect. Capital and capitol. Site and cite. Complement and compliment. Lie and lay. Just because journalists and politicians make these mistakes doesn’t mean it is all right for serious writers. On the Internet you can look up lists of often confused and misused words. By using words correctly, you build the reader’s trust.
- Sentence formation—vary sentence length, making sure sentences are constructed properly, without dangling modifiers, or incorrect referents. A scene with high tension might have shorter sentences, and even some fragments. A sequel that describes place might have lush, longer sentences. Notice the rhythm your sentences have, and vary it. We writers need to become aware of our tendencies, and work to overcome them.
- Economical writing—our prose is dragged down by extra words: two (or three, or four) adjectives where one would do; extra attributions—he said, she said—where the meaning is clear without them; wandering, or circling descriptions, or weak verbs where a powerful one could eliminate unnecessary adverbs.
Hint: I participate in a weekly critique group. Each week, we bring up to ten pages. For the six nights prior to that group, I review the section—honing, searching for strong verbs, deleting extra words. Every night I find ways to strengthen the writing. As I near the evening of the critique group, I read my selection out loud. It is amazing what I catch by listening to the words rather than reading them.
- Avoid cliches—cliches are the easy, fall-back way that people describe a situation: “time will tell,” “old as the hills,” “scared out of my wits,” “fall head over heels.” Writers need to do better! Cliches are a sign of writerly laziness. It’s fine to use one as a placeholder in a first draft, but by the second draft, come up with an original phrase.
- Retain standard punctuation—avoid multiple exclamation points !!!, or the useful ?!. They do not have a place in serious writing. Instead, use words to create that feeling.
- Strong verbs—using strong verbs reduces the need for adverbs and adjectives, and lessens our reliance on the verb “to be.” Search your work for “was” and “were.” You may be stunned by how many instances you find.
Remember, most suggested rules have been broken in ways that succeed. But don’t count on it!
© Skye Blaine, 2016
When writers begin a new piece, our first instinct is that we need to fill our readers in on what went before, so they are prepared for the story that is starting now. Sometimes our first instincts are not correct—and opening with back story is not the way to invite the reader in.
We need to hook our readers first. We must compel them to read on. There are a number of ways to incite the reader forward:
● Focus on one character, and make that character specific and unique, so the reader gets curious (second example, below)
● Raise a question, a problem, a situation, or a theme that the reader needs to have answered (first example, below)
● Answer or raise, or both, some of the questions of who, what, when, where, why
● Soon after, or in the opening itself, something must occur that raises the question of how things might turn out.
Do all novels or memoirs fulfill these specific hooks? No. But there must be something in the writing to drive the reader forward, to forget that he or she is relaxing in a recliner, and that the laundry really does need folding.
Look at this example, The Invention of Solitude, by Paul Auster:
“One day, there is life. A man, for example, in the best of health, not even old, with no history of illness. Everything is as it was, as it will always be. He goes from one day to the next, minding his own business, dreaming only of the life that lies before him. And then, suddenly, it happens there is death. A man lets out a little sigh, he slumps down in his chair, and it is death.”
This opening paragraph seems general, but as the reader, aren’t you convinced that soon, in just a few pages, you will find out what man has died? And why? He’s not even old! What happened?
And from Waiting to Exhale, by Terry MacMillan:
“Right now I’m supposed to be all geeked up because I’m getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party that some guy named Lionel invited me to. Sheila, my baby sister, insisted on giving me his phone number because he lives here in Denver and her simple-ass husband played basketball with him eleven years ago at the University of Washington, and since I’m still single (which is downright pitiful to her, considering I’m the oldest of four kids and the only one who has yet to say “I do”), she’s worried about me.”
MacMillan develops voice and character in this opening paragraph with “simple-ass husband” and “downright pitiful.” The reader wants to get to know this character better.
I encourage writers not to worry about the opening at beginning of writing. New writers can get stuck, writing and rewriting the first page. Often, it is not until the novel or memoir is finished that we come to understand the full arc, and where the story actually needs to start.
© Skye Blaine, 2016
I’ve done a fair amount of research on the internet for my novel–I’ve checked into leg prosthetics, PTSD, cortical blindness, and “cane travelers”–the proper use of a white cane. I explored possible names for Afghani children, and the kinds of typical family compounds in Afghanistan.
But there is still research needed that can only be done on the ground. I need to return to Oregon, both Eugene and Sisters, to check where I’ve set my story. Sure, I inquired into what plants grow in central Oregon, and used Google Earth to figure out where the large, rural ranch might be located. I spoke to a wildlife specialist about the behavior of cougars. I’m always delighted by how friendly and helpful people are when I contact them.
But nothing takes the place of sniffing the air, feeling the plants, and talking to the people who actually live there. In Sisters, there are five places I need to go: Sisters Inn, Martolli’s Pizza, Paulina Springs Books, the feed store. And I need to drive out the road I’ve picked for the ranch to see if it’s actually possible to set part of my story there. If not, I’ll talk to the residents and figure out a different location.
I’m sorry I can’t go to Afghanistan and taste the dust. My budget doesn’t allow for that.
Sometime in 2015, I need to schedule the Oregon trip.
© Skye Blaine, 2015
The process of envisioning and birthing a fictional story is another way I write myself alive. Every aspect of the story is born out of who I am, formed from all the experiences I’ve undergone.
I write about disability because of raising my beautiful, differently-abled son. I chose an Irish wolfhound/Scottish deerhound mix for my character because I’ve lived in harmony with both of those splendid breeds.Their natures are so familiar to me. I write about human/dog communication because I’ve felt since I was a toddler that my dogs could communicate telepathically, but somehow I’ve lost the capacity. So I’m driven to imagine what that might be like.
My male protagonist, I realized a few weeks ago is, in psychologist C. G. Jung’s words, my animus. The main female character has qualities of both myself and my mother, but is qualitatively different from both of us. The eleven-year-old girl is the daughter I never had.
I write about car accidents because I’ve had two serious ones: in the first, about thirty years ago, my little Red Fiesta ended up on its passenger side. Last year, my Prius landed on its roof–due to a texter–the car reduced from an efficient mode of travel to a dead beetle. Miraculously, no one suffered severe injury in either accident. I chose Oregon for the story’s setting because I lived in Eugene for twenty years, and traveled a few times to teach in Bend.