Reading Westerns & Weekly Writing Prompts

The Biker's Wench Cover BSB News

I know the quarterly newsletter is late – my apologies. What with NaNoWriMo and trying to get things organized for potential holiday releases, I kind of got a little behind. Look for this quarter’s newsletter sometime in December, and hopefully there will be some fun announcements included!

Reading Westerns with Grandpa

When I was a kid, my parents would send my sister and I to my grandparent’s house for a week or two every summer. We also spent a lot of Thanksgivings and Christmases there and Grandma & Gramps were early-to-bed/early-to-rise rural sorts, which meant a lot of reading time for moi after they were sleeping. Still being young and not having my own money yet, I often didn’t pack enough books to get me through my whole time there.

Which is how I discovered Westerns. My grandpa was an avid reader, and his favorites were old western dime-store style novels. I worked my way through most of the books on his shelf, and became intimately acquainted with the likes of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. I’m still not all that fond of L’Amour – he’s a bit too wordy/descriptive for my taste, but I can still pick up a Zane Grey and enjoy reading about small-town drama and romance in the romanticized old west.

Gramps died just recently, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to honor him and my memories of what he shared with me. I think it might be fun to write a story or series of Westerns that draw loosely from his own life experiences, or the ones I know about, anyway. Not old west stories, but modern stories to share the lifestyle and values he loved – modern westerns, as it were, with a bit of added flair (he would have liked that).

Have you read a western, old or new? What kind of books did your grandparents share with you – anything you wouldn’t normally have read?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Weekly Prose Prompt: It’s high-noon in your fictional town, and there’s gonna be a duel over the boundary line between two nearby ranches. The town has outlawed traditional weapons like guns/knives, so what will your characters duel with? And who wins?

Weekly Poetry Prompt: Write a poem about a cowboy on a cattle drive.

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. 

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!

News, Time to Read, & Weekly Writing Prompts

BSB News

MacKenzie Saves the World Cover

Carol took the challenge to write a poem about the weather last week – and she did an excellent job too, methinks! Have you read it? Go check it out! 
Prompted Poetry: I Am Canadian

Want to join us next week? Scroll down, grab a prompt and write a story or poem to submit! I’ve already got something in mind for each prompt this week…

Topic of the Week: Time to Read

I haven’t been doing very well at making time to read lately. It’s been busy, and I have been writing, but at the end of the day (or the middle, or the beginning), it seems like I have trouble finding the time to work in a chapter or two. This isn’t good…both because my to-be-read pile is bursting at the seams, and because in order to write, you really need to read. Refill the well, so to speak.

Plus, I really like reading. I miss it when I don’t get to do it. And I get a little irritable when I can’t make that mental escape too.

Unfortunately, we all get busy, and I’m working on making time to read on a daily basis. The best time for me is late at night, when I won’t get interrupted. And reading right before bed tends to relax my brain and make for an easy transition to sleep. But lately I’ve been getting back to my writing office late, which means I’m writing later and allowing that to take over my reading time. Not good!

This week, I’m going to work hard at sticking to my normal schedule so I can take that reading time back. I’m also going to look for a few other times during the day where I might be able to fit a chapter or two in between things. I read in all different formats (except audio), so I can read print at home, and use either my kindle or (more conveniently) the kindle app on my cell.

How do you make time to read? Do you read when you first wake up, or before bed? Or do you sneak it in during waiting times and lines during the day? Does your preferred method of reading make a difference in how/where you read?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

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?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about having a cup of tea with someone you…don’t exactly like.

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!