Reading Habits & Weekly Writing Prompts

Listen to the Leaves CoverDon’t you just love fall? I just love to see the yellows and browns and reds take over, flittering to the ground and then crunching so deliciously underfoot as you wade through them on your way to…wherever. The crisp autumn air, the cooler nights and moderate days, the hint of snow on the breeze if you sniff in just the right direction…it’s easily my favorite season.

Any weather is good reading weather, but there’s something about looking out the window at a pile of leaves (or sitting under a tree and letting them rain around you) that puts me in the mood for a good suspense novel. Of course we’ve had snow here lately (though it’s melting off as I type), but white is just as good a backdrop for a story or two (or more), in my opinion. But I really wouldn’t want to sit under a tree and try to read while it’s snowing on me. Wet glasses and cold fingers are quite a bit less romantic than falling leaves, sadly enough.

But rarely as I get to do so these days, being snuggled under a lovely afghan with a warm cup of tea and say…a collection of short stories by some excellent authors, like the ones contained in our “Listen to the Leaves” anthology is definitely a favorite way to spend a few hours.

Do you have a place you love to read? A blanket you always read with? A chair or couch that is just perfect for your bookwormy proclivities? Let us know!


Prose prompt: A woman stops under a tree to marvel at the changing leaves, and hears a voice. No one else is around but a squirrel on a branch overhead, and she realizes it’s the squirrel talking to her. What does the squirrel say?

Poetry Prompt: Write an ode to your favorite reading spot.

Discussing Books & Weekly Writing Prompts

Lucky Dog CoverDiscussing Books

Do you talk about the books you read with other people? There are only a couple of people I discuss books with on a regular basis, but my mom is in a couple different book clubs she seems to enjoy. I’ve been in book clubs before, but I don’t typically read all that much “literature”, which is what those clubs tend to discuss.

I’ve only been in a couple of clubs that discussed genre fiction, and they fizzled fairly quickly. I wonder if it’s because there just isn’t that much to discuss with genre fiction, or if it’s just that it’s sometimes harder to identify the main themes and potential discussion topics in a piece of genre fiction than it is in a more literary novel.

My husband and I discuss the books we both read, which is always interesting and sometimes turns into a much longer and more involved discussion than one might expect with a suspense/thriller type novel. It’s those discussions that really make me think that maybe more of us should try harder to share our thoughts on the stories we read, even the stories where the discussion points aren’t terribly obvious. I think most authors discover something (and subsequently reveal something) about both human nature and society in every book they write. Maybe if we looked a little deeper, we’d even discover truths that the author didn’t mean to include, but that were made apparent through the story all the same.

I’d like to see readers dive deeper into our stories, and I’m considering launching some discussion questions for the books we have out now, and every book we publish in the future. Those who want to just read the whole story at face value can, certainly, but for those who want to delve deeper, it seems like a discussion guide of sorts might be helpful.

What do you think of the idea of discussion questions/guides for genre books? Is it something you’d be interested in, or something you’d just skim over? Let us know in the comments, or wherever you’re reading on social media!


Wanna write? Here are a couple of prompts to get you started!

Prose Prompt: A book club has discovered that one of their members wrote the murder mystery they’re reading, and that they’re all victims in the story. They figure out which member is the author…does he/she get arrested, or do the members end up actual victims?

Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about your favorite or least favorite day of the week.

Free for Halloween, NaNoWriMo, & Weekly Writing Prompts

Jack CoverBSB News

Happy Halloween! Yes, the post is a day late this week, but it’s Halloween, and it seemed like a good day to give away a free book! So, if you click on one of the links below, you can download a copy of Jack by Alex Westhaven completely free. A little something to get you in the mood for tonight’s festivities…

Download PDF file  | Download Epub file | Download Mobi file

 

National Novel Writing Month

Of course if you’re inclined to write a book like so many of us are, Halloween doubles as the night to make sure your sugar stocks are filled for the craziest writing challenge of the year, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo – Na-No-rye-mo) that starts on November 1st. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days, it’s the quintessential way to get a novel draft down quickly and in a kind of kamakazie fashion. It’s also a great way to establish a daily writing habit, even if you don’t reach 50k by the end of the month.

I’ve got part of a loose outline done for my NaNo novel this year, and I’m really excited to get started on it. I’ve been planning this book since last fall, letting the story marinate in my head while I worked on other things, and it’s so ready to be written, it’s not even funny. I’m just hoping that putting so much thought/advanced planning into it won’t jinx me, and make it harder to get down on paper.

I don’t often start NaNo with much of a plan though. Normally I just stick a couple of characters in a situation, and start writing. The characters tell me the story as I write. This is the most planning I’ve ever done, so I’m curious to see if it will make it easier or harder to reach “The End”.

Do you participate in NaNo? Ever wanted to write a novel but just couldn’t get moving on it? Check out the web site at nanowrimo.org – maybe this is your year! My username there is “outofwords” – feel free to connect!

 


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Prompt of the Week: While walking through the woods, your character stumbles over something hidden under a pile of leaves. What is it, and what does your character do?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about trick-or-treating…from either the trick-or-treater side, or from the perspective of handing out candy.

 

Death by Veggies & Weekly Writing Prompts

Jack CoverHow do you like your horror? Grotesque and bloody, psychological and clean? Somewhere between the two? Alex Westhaven is our resident horror/thriller writer (also, an alter-ego of mine), and does her best to balance a little bit of the grotesque with a lot of the cerebral when it comes to getting that adrenaline rush going. Her shorter horror stories are perfect for a bright lunch hour or dark before-bed snack, which you already know if you’ve tried the Death by Veggies series.

Fun Fact: The Death by Veggies series was inspired by a conversation overheard in a bar. Several post-sober people were having a rousing (and rather loud) conversation about how much one or two of them hated vegetables, and how one was absolutely certain that if he/she ate even one, he/she would simply *die* right there on the spot. Another mentioned something to the effect of that being a great way to murder someone, but by then, Alex was already scribbling down the titles to several DBV stories (a couple of which haven’t been written…yet).

In any case, if fun little horror stories are your thing, do check out the DBV series. They’re all stand-alone stories, so you can read them in any order (though this month, we think Jack is probably the appropriate place to start), and they’re all available in print, ebook and audio, so there’s a format for every reader.

And if you have read one or more already, leave a comment and tell us your favorite!


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week:  Pick an obscure, non-poisonous vegetable and make it the catalyst for a murder.

Poetry Prompt of the Week:  Write a poem about your favorite vegetable.

Bookshelves, Books, & Weekly Writing Prompts

Canvas CoverBookshelves & Books

How long has it been since you organized your bookshelves?

This past weekend I spent a fair amount of time moving about a quarter of our books from the three bookcases in our home office to the living room floor and dining room table, and then back again after we replaced the cheap pressboard shelving with much nicer plywood shelving that my husband built custom for the room. I meant to go through and sort/reorganize/cull that section of books as I put them back, but it was nearly 8pm on Sunday before we got the shelves in, and I needed to get the books put back so we weren’t tripping over them all week. So I just tossed them up there, willy-nilly, and now I actually think they’re more randomly shelved than they were before.

Ironically, they still look “neater”, because there’s room, so they aren’t crammed together, and the shelve sizes fit the books better. But I definitely need to go through and reorganize/cull, and then I can go through the bookcases in our bedroom and basement and reorganize those as well. But it’s going to have to wait until the snow flies and things quiet down. A good January/February project, maybe?

I did forget to put my vintage/antique books back (they’re still on my dining room table), so I’ll have to do at least some shelf reorganization to fit those in where I want them. I’ll do that next weekend though. It’s kind of surprising how much work it is moving books around. Thank goodness I don’t care for hardbacks! We have some, but most of those live in one of the bedroom bookcases.

When was the last time you really took a look at the titles on your shelves? My husband and I were looking the new shelves over and talking about certain titles that caught our eye, and it made me wonder how many people really “look” at their bookshelves, and think about what they have, and what they’ve read in the past to shape their way of thinking.

Maybe we should all reorganize and take stock of our shelves more often…

 


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: A person is going through his/her books and comes across one they can’t remember reading, much less buying. Opening the cover to get a refresher scan of the first page, they find a photograph that is definitely not of them or any family members. What do they do?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: A person is going through his/her books and comes across one they can’t remember reading, much less buying. Opening the cover to get a refresher scan of the first page, they find a photograph that is definitely not of them or any family members. What do they do? 

Heroes, Villains, & Weekly Writing Prompts

Lettuce Pray Cover

Heroes vs. Villains: Which Perspective?

Do you have a preference for heroes or villains when it comes to who tells a story? Alex, our featured author for October, often tells a story from the villain’s point of view, exploring the motivations and “humanity” (or lack thereof), of characters who see things from the darker side of the spectrum.

I think it’s far more common to tell stories from the hero’s perspective, where we can really empathize with the main character and put ourselves in their shoes to “relive” the story they’re recounting.

And of course there are books with an ambiguous hero/villain. Often the same person, the hero is plagued with the desire to step outside their mundane life and do things that may not be directly in line with their own moral code.  The struggle comes from within, and the side that wins is anyone’s guess right up until the end.

Personally, I like both approaches. I like trying to see things from the bad guy’s perspective, and learning what motivates him or her, but I also like following the hero through whatever journey he or she took for that particular story/trip.

But I think an ambiguous hero can really be fascinating – the interplay between two halves of of a single personality is really interesting, and the end result is generally quite surprising.

Do you have a favorite perspective to hear from when you read? And if you’re a writer, do you have a favorite perspective to write stories with?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: A woman goes into a bar and threatens the bartender with something in her pocket, but she’s stopped by a person having a drink at the time. Write the story from at least two different perspectives.  

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem from the perspective of a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter. 

Excerpt: Lettuce Prey by Alex Westhaven

Lettuce Pray CoverLettuce Prey by Alex Westhaven

He was feeding the bitch cake. Off his own fork.
Bastard.
Abby Mars peered through the small portal window in the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining room. Her ears burned with anger as she watched her boyfriend with another woman. Not just any woman, but a fat cow three sizes bigger than the unfortunate top she’d managed to stuff herself into. What she’d done to make Dominic fall for her was anyone’s guess, but he could have at least had the decency to tell Abby.
Who did he think he was, anyway – bringing his new fling to her restaurant? Did he think she wouldn’t notice just because she was a sous chef, and rarely made it out of the kitchen?
She looked down at the flat stomach she worked so hard for, draped in a stark white jacket. She loved food – there wasn’t a dish out there she wouldn’t try at least once. But she watched her portions, she was on her feet all day, and three times a week she went to the gym. Dominic appreciated it, or so she thought. Watching him feed the fat girl another bite of chocolate cake made her want to grab the nearest knife and slash his cheating throat.
But she wouldn’t. Not here, anyway, where anyone could see and hear. She’d bide her time, plan her revenge, and then they’d die together.
She turned away from the window and strode back to her station. Salads were her assignment today – chopping, dicing, mixing, dressing. The knife flew under her fingers, making a satisfying clunk every time it hit the cutting board. Over the next hour, she forced herself to focus on her job rather than her crumbling love life. She told herself there was no point in worrying about it just yet. Plenty of time for that when she was safely back at the apartment, flinging Dominic’s things out onto the front lawn. Her lips curved up slightly at the thought. She’d call a locksmith after work and have him meet her at the house. Then she could just relax and lick her wounds in peace.
When her shift was finished and her station cleaned, she made the call and went home, fitting her key into the lock one last time.
It wouldn’t turn.


Revenge is a dish best served lukewarm in this Death by Veggies short story from the author of When She Cries. But is getting even worth all the work and clean-up? Abby Mars is determined to find out…

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October Topics & Weekly Writing Prompts

Listen to the Leaves CoverJust a few things to ponder this week in lieu of a normal discussion post (these will be our October subjects of discussion, starting next week):

– Do you prefer stories told from the hero or villain perspective? Or both?
– Are you a fan of first person narratives (I did something, etc), third person (she did something) or omniscent (as the girl did something, the boy watched, waiting)? Do you know why?
– When you read, do you talk about what you’re reading with friends? Why or why not?
– Do you use a bookmark? Dog-ear pages? Lay the book face down and open to keep your place?
– Do you like holiday stories? For all holidays, or just some?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: What would happen if a young teen followed a stray dog who was acting funny to a hidden space behind some rocks near a river?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem as if you’d been trapped in an underground bunker for six months after an apocalyptic-type of event.

 

News, Post Changes, & Weekly Writing Prompts

BSB News

Flash 52 Cover

Did you catch the prompt-inspired poems and story last week? If not, you can check them out here:

Prompted Poetry: Tea? 

Prompted Prose: Phone Bump

Scroll down for this week’s writing prompts…

Topic of the Week: Writing Practice & Post Changes

Are you enjoying the writing and poetry prompts we’ve been posting weekly this year? Have they inspired short stories, poems or maybe even longer novel ideas? Have you been reading the stories and poems we come up with most weeks?

I like prompts. I think it’s good practice to just grab a topic – any topic, and run with it, creatively speaking. I think it’s good for the mind to be turned loose on something, and to make that topic into something all its own. And it’s a good way to practice writing techniques too – more description, less description, character backstory, exploring motivations…you can do and learn a lot with just a single story prompt.

Alas, it takes time to write these little practice pieces, and National Novel Writing Month is just five short weeks away. I know I have a few drafts I’d like to finish before November 1st, and perhaps you do too. Or maybe you’re outlining that novel you’ll be writing in one single month.

In light of the busy-ness going on around here and my desire to spend my writing time on my current drafts, we’re going to discontinue posting the prompt poems/stories on the weekends. There will still be prompts posted every Monday for those who might find them useful, but we’ll no longer take submissions based on those prompts – at least for the next few months.

Instead, we’ll showcase an excerpt from one of our books every Saturday, to give you a taste of what our authors have to offer. Maybe you’ll find a new series to love, or character to intrigue you? I’m looking forward to picking out the excerpts – a peek between our covers, so to speak. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them too!


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: What would happen if a young teen followed a stray dog who was acting funny to a hidden space behind some rocks near a river?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem as if you’d been trapped in an underground bunker for six months after an apocalyptic-type of event.

Write a 500 – 1000 word story based on the prose prompt and/or a poem using the theme of the poetry prompt, and email it/them to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com by Friday night at 11:59pm (MT). Poems will be posted on Saturdays, Prose on Sundays. Happy writing!

Weekly Prompt Prose: Phone Bump

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Someone is reading a book on their phone while walking on a city street. They bump into someone who is less than sympathetic…at least at first. How does the meeting end?


Phone Bump
by Jamie DeBree

Abby glanced up briefly, her true attention still on the small screen in her hand. She didn’t normally read while she walked, but her lunch hour was so short, and the heroine was just about to meet the guy she’d been texting with on and off for weeks, and Abby was sure they were going to hit it off right away – well, after she forgave him for that whole misunderstanding several chapters ago – and declare their love and it was going to be so…sigh.

Looking up again as she reached the curb right before her block, she forced herself to make sure the light was green and the walk sign was on before she stepped out into traffic, forgoing the story long enough to cross. Safely on the other side, she eagerly looked back down at the screen. She might be able to finish the chapter before she got to her front door.

Someone – her text buddy, she assumed – tapped Maeve on the shoulder and she turned around, her smile falling as she realized just who she’d been communicating with…

And Abby gasped as her left shoulder slammed into a solid wall she was sure hadn’t been there just a second ago. Jarred, she looked up, her mind still half in the book as she clutched the phone hard to keep it from slipping out of her grasp.

“And that’s why you shouldn’t text and walk,” the tall blond suit said, his voice much deeper than she would have expected. “Are you okay?”

She nodded. “I wasn’t texting. I was reading.” She realized how stupid the words sounded the moment they came out, and felt her cheeks warming. “I’m sorry. I don’t normally, but I was just at the spot where…” she stopped again. He didn’t care what she was reading or why, just that she’d plowed right into him on the sidewalk. “Well, I’m sorry. I should have been paying attention. I…are you okay?”

He certainly looked okay to her. Annoyed, of course, but the frown lines looked good accenting his square, Calvin Klein-model jaw. The green eyes glaring at her reminded her a little of fresh leaves unfurling in spring. The tailored charcoal suit set his broad shoulders and strong lines well, and the cream button-down underneath made an unassuming backdrop for the surprisingly artistic abstract black and gray tie that pulled it all together.

“If I looked you up and down like that, I could get arrested for harassment.” He checked his watch, thick and silver. “And I’m late for an appointment in one of these buildings. Do you know which one the Hansen building is?”

Abby tried to ignore her flaming cheeks and nodded again, pointing around one of those big shoulders. “Right behind you – that’s my building, actually. Who are you meeting with?” She put her phone in her purse, stifling a sigh. Finding out if Maeve and Toby would get past their differences and fall into each others arms would have to wait until after work. Dammit. She started walking towards the building and charcoal suit fell in beside her.

“Anderson-Pearson. The law firm,” the man said, reaching out to pull the door open for her. “Which company do you work for?”

“Thank you.” She crossed the threshold and moved toward the elevators. “I’m at Eldrige DocuServ. We do legal document service as well as courier services for most of the firms in the building.” There was an elevator waiting, and she got in. Charcoal Suit followed. She pushed the buttons for three and seven, and watched the doors close.

“I’m Abby Eldrige, by the way.” She held out her hand, and smiled pleasantly. The man took it, and squeezed – a good, firm handshake. Always a good sign.

“Toby McIntyre,” he said. “Nice to meet you, Abby. You own the company then?”

She shrugged as the elevator doors opened on third. Her stop. “I might someday. For now, I’m just working my way up like everyone else.” Stepping out, she put a hand against the door. “Good luck with your meeting, and I’m sorry I bumped into you.”

He raised an eyebrow and gave her a smirk. “I’m not. Have a good afternoon. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
Abby nodded and stepped back, letting the doors close between them.

Toby was also the name of Maeve’s currently estranged love in her book. What an interesting coincidence.

 

Two hours later, she was sitting at the front desk wondering if she could sneak in a few more paragraphs of her book while things were quiet, and of course just when she reached for her phone, the door opened. She looked up and smiled, her cheeks warming again.

“Well hi there. What can I do for you?”

He handed her a thick envelope with a sticky note on top. “Pearson asked me to drop this off on my way out. He said to charge it his account.”

Abby took the envelope and nodded. “We’ll get that delivered for him before five. Anything else?”

He shrugged. Smiled. “Maybe later. You have a good afternoon.” He turned and left, and Abby sighed. Why couldn’t she find someone that good looking and potentially smart for herself?”

Looking down at the envelope, she read the sticky note and grinned.

Text me when you find out how the book ends. His number was scrawled below.

Well then. Maybe she would.


Check back next Sunday for more free flash fiction! And check the writing prompt on Monday’s blog too, in case you might be interested in writing something to submit for this weekly post as well…