Monday Blues: The House of Long Shadows

(“Monday” Blues: At the start of every other week, I’ll recommend a new world – a book, a game, a podcast, etc – to escape into. Or at least to look forward to after a hard day’s work.)

The House of Long Shadows

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A Novel by Ambrose Ibsen

What It Is: A horror novel in which a “Videotube” star challenges himself to renovate an abandoned old house in a bad part of town within a month. A contract for a television show on the Home Improvement Network is on the line – and therefore his dreams of success and stardom – but the house itself has other plans.

Why You Should Read It: There are two elements that make this novel special: the imagery is incredibly vivid and it’s genuinely scary.

I read a lot of horror and ghost stories, but this is one of the few that actually got my heart beating faster not only while I was reading it, but also for a while after setting it down each night. It left behind plenty of goosebumps, too. There were several times when I intended to sit down and read just one chapter and ended up rushing through page and page during the dark hours of the night, while everyone else slept and my own house seemed far too still – definitely chilling in a fun way.

It was actually after I finished the novel when I appreciated just how good the imagery within it is. Normally, the scenes I imagine while reading a book fade shortly after finishing it, but days after reaching the end of this one, I can still see the house, its surroundings, and its ghastly inhabitants as clearly as if I’d watched a film.

The character development is also quite well done. The protagonist, Kevin, is a little plain but relatable. His simple, earnest desperation to achieve his dreams makes it almost too easy to root for him considering how poorly you know his plans are going to go just judging by the genre. It also made a lot of his risky behavior more believable, which is something the genre as a whole tends to struggle with. It was interesting how he was more or less the only major character in the book – it definitely made me as the reader feel closer to his struggles.

The only aspect I have mixed feelings about is the ending. It was poetic in a way, but also a bit predictable. I was admittedly hoping for it to end differently – but maybe that itself says something about how invested I was in the story.

Overall, The House of Long Shadows managed to pull me out of my analytical “writer brain” that I sometimes read with and coax me into genuine emotion. I’m not sure what else I can ask for from a good book.


Night_Plague_Cover_for_Kindle

If you’re looking for even more books to read over the summer, you can download my YA apocalyptic novel, Night Plague, for free from my email list or Instafreebie. Right now it’s also included in several multi-book giveaway packages with other free, fun reads:

Last Night on Earth (Poem)

(Thoughtful Thursday: Every other Thursday (or so) I’ll post a poem or atmospheric piece.)

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Last Night on Earth

and we sit below the sky
as the sun dips down and goes to sleep,
and we know it won’t wake up,
not this time,
and though we ache to feel it just once more,
we remember its touch on our skin,
we breathe it in, taste the cold night air,
and sink into the wide open stars
cradling this world like a palm with
frail, loving fingers still holding on
until the last breath comes,
and we wait,
immersed in stories that seem to stretch time –
our echoes won’t ever fade.

 

Friend (Flash Fiction)

(Flash Friday: Every other Friday (or so), I’ll share a flash fiction story and the prompt that spawned it.)

Source: This prompt came from a page in this workbook, which I highly recommended.

Prompt: Begin a story with the following sentences: “How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she


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“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she honestly liked me as a friend. As a person. No, that couldn’t be – not if she’d known. Her interest in me had to be because of what I was. It had to be because of her job with the Agency. I was her enemy, not her friend.

She smiled weakly, “I hoped, before I knew. You seemed different than other people.”

“Different?” I frowned. I’d tried so hard to blend in, to pretend to be human. I’d failed, then.

“Not in a bad way. You didn’t seem to walk around with the same sets of assumptions and expectations we do. You were excited and horrified by different things.” She smirked, “you even laughed at my jokes.”

She paused, as if all of this was just another joke and I was supposed to keep on laughing. I didn’t. I didn’t think I’d ever laugh again.

Her face fell. “Still, I must admit to spying on you. I saw you in your original form. I’m sorry. I’ve been a terrible friend.”

I swallowed, trying to pretend the hurt wasn’t there. “Friend? Why would someone from the Agency still call me a friend?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh no, I’m not from the Agency! I was searching for someone like you because I was hoping you’d take me with you to the stars! I’m sick of Earth.”

She’d used me, then, but I still found myself smiling. I should’ve said no, but I knew that I wouldn’t. I also knew how much she’d love my home – the planet her people called Luyten b.


If you write your own story with this prompt, feel free to post it in the comments!

7 Tips for NaNoWriMo

(Tip Thursday: Every other Thursday (or so), I’ll post writing/editing tips that I’ve personally found useful.)

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It’s time to head back to Camp (NaNoWriMo) for July. In fact, today marks the end of the first week. Here are a few tips for participating writers looking to quickly grow their word counts.

 

  1. If you’ve participated in NaNoWriMo before, you’ve probably heard of word sprints: choosing a fifteen minute slot (usually using notations such as on the :00 or :30, etc, to account for timezone differences online) and competing with other writers to see who can write the most during that time. However, even if you can’t find sprinting partners, word sprints can still be useful if you play against yourself for the “high score”. Set a timer for fifteen minutes or so and see how many words you can write! Record your current record and try to beat it.
  2. Similarly, some writers like the Pomodoro Technique: working nonstop in sets of 25 minutes with 5 minute rest breaks in between.
  3. If you really need an extra push to shut down the inner editor and keep on writing, sites like The Most Dangerous Writing App or Write or Die, which penalize you by deleting words if you hesitate, can be useful.
  4. While writing, elongate descriptions as much as you can. A few big paragraphs do wonders for the word count. If you’re like me and tend to underwrite the first draft, this can actually end up being beneficial in the long run, too. Remember to focus on all five senses, rather than just sight, and on both the external and internal worlds.
  5. Unless it’s absolutely vital, don’t get caught up in choosing names or conducting research during the first draft. Just leave [Friend’s Name] or a similar tag in the text if you run into a spot where you’re not sure what to put down and come back to it during the second draft. You can even replace whole scenes with temporary stubs – for example, [Jacob and Julie have an argument about when to leave for the hospital] – if you get stuck on one.
  6. Even if you’re more of a pantser, try the headlights method of outlining – that is, try planning out content for just the next chapter or so. This gives you an opportunity to focus on the story as separate from the act of writing, which in turn frees up time to focus on simply getting the words down as fast as you can later. After all, writer’s block most commonly comes from two sources – a lack of motivation to write or not knowing what happens next in the plot. Having a plan – even a loose, subject to change, short-term one – helps with both of these obstacles.
  7. Keep a physical or digital notebook on hand. If you run into a problem, like a plot hole or an inconsistency, write it down rather than worrying about fixing it now. If your word processor has a comment function, it can be useful for the same purpose. You can also simply highlight any sections you know will need editing later, then give yourself permission to put them out of your mind for now. Don’t come back to your comments or notes until the second draft. Keep moving forward.

Are you participating in Camp this month? Feel free to share your progress or any of your own tips in the comments.

Monday Blues: 14

(“Monday” Blues: At the start of every other week, I’ll recommend a new world – a book, a game, a podcast, etc – to escape into. Or at least to look forward to after a hard day’s work. The regular schedule is back for July.)

14

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A Novel by Peter Clines

What It Is: A genre-blending speculative fiction novel about a man named Nate who notices more than a few oddities about his new apartment building.

Why You Should Read It: With a twisting plot, fun characters, and atmospheric setting, 14 has it all. If you’re like me and enjoy books where genres blend and break, acting as tools rather than limitations, you’ll enjoy the way it mixes together styles ranging from crime to science fiction to supernatural horror. I also enjoyed how, even with all of that going on, it remains fairly character driven throughout. Reading it reminded me of walking down an unexplored mountain trail, always pushing ahead just a little farther to see what surprises are around the next bend due to the environment shifting with the elevation. Despite its hefty page count, I devoured this one quickly. There are some aspects that felt a bit rushed towards the end and a few questions that went unanswered, but on the whole, 14 was one of the most entertaining and memorable books I’ve read recently. Definitely go into this one spoiler free if you can.


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If you’re looking for even more books to read over the summer, you can download my YA apocalyptic novel, Night Plague, for free from my email list.