Ninja Writer Book Club: 3/17/17

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Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution to this list this week is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. It’s a middle grade book about the Holocaust that I haven’t read before, but is a classic. The Giver, by Lowry, is one of my favorites so I’m pretty excited about this one.

I’m also reading The Imagineering Way by the Disney Imagineers. Just pure fun. I think you’ll like this one if your creativity muscle needs a little goose.

And I read a whole PILE of picture books that were required for my MFA. I’m not going to list them all, but I particularly loved reading Skippyjon Jones like a reader. It’s about a little Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua. The use of language is fantastic.

I turned in my third packet of my second MFA semester in this week. Two more to go and then I’m half done with this degree. Go me!

NON-FICTION

CHILDREN

CLASSIC + LITERARY

MYSTERY + THRILLER

ROMANCE

SHORT STORIES

SPECULATIVE

YA

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Ninja Writer Book Club: 3/10/17

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Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution to this list is Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. I read it on the plane to and from Nashville last week. It’s a clever, high-octane story, really well written. One thing that was really interesting to me is that the main character, Miriam Black, has Chuck Wendig’s voice. His odd way of cursing. His funny way of looking at the world. She’s Chuck Wendig, if Chuck Wendig was a 22-year-old psychic girl. Anyway, I really loved the book and will definitely read forward in the series.

I was sad to see that the sticker on the front of the book promising a television series to come isn’t true.

I’m also rereading the novella “The Body” out of Stephen King’s book Different Seasons. I forgot how good that story is! As a writer, my favorite part is something that I missed when I read the story the first time years and years ago. There’s a short story embedded in the novella that the main character (who is basically Stephen King) tears apart. It’s fascinating. It’s like King critiquing himself.

I’m still making my slow way through Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. I’m really enjoying doing the exercises. I’m thinking about starting up a thing where everyone in the 1000 Day MFA reads a craft book together every month and works on the exercises (if they want to.) What do you think?

Non-Fiction

Children

Classics + Literary

Historical

Humor

Mystery + Thriller

Short Stories

Speculative

YA

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Ninja Writer Book Club: 3/3/2017

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Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution this week is Truman Capote’s iconic, incredible book of short stories: Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories. I cannot overstate how much I love this book. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for me, is the ultimate, perfectly written short story (really, a novella.) The movie was my favorite, since I was a teenager, though, and reading the book ruined it for me. It’s THAT good. It’s dark and gorgeous and just perfect. If you haven’t read it, and you have any desire at all to be a writer, I highly recommend reading it as a writer and paying attention to the character development.

I also read Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds. This one’s interesting. I love Wendig and I read a lot of his writing advice. I don’t think I’ve never read a book written by a man before where the female protagonist feels like a Mary Sue, but Miriam Black feels to me like Wendig, if Wendig was a 22-year-old psychic girl with a trucker’s mouth. The story though, is a lot of fun. I’m excited to keep reading this series. And I’m a little sad that the “soon to be a television series” sticker on the front isn’t actually true anymore.

I’m still making my way through Lisa Cron’s book Story Genius and really loving it. I’m working on the exercises as I go, so it’s taking me some time, but they are REALLY good.

Non-fiction

Classic + Literary

Comedy

Historical

Mystery + Thriller

Religion

Romance

Short Stories

Speculative

YA

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Ninja Writer Book Club: 2/24/2017

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Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution this week is Steel: And Other Stories by Richard Matheson. I really love mid-century science fiction, and this collection of stories is that genre at its best.

I’m also reading The Great Gatsby, after binge watching Z: The Beginning of Everything on Amazon. Both are amazing. I had no idea how much Fitzgerald took from his wife. So interesting. I’m writing a story using the same narrative structure as The Great Gatsby (my book is narrated by someone who is not the protagonist), so I wanted to take another, deeper look at it.

I have an assignment from my MFA mentor to read some picture books for this packet. I was super excited to come across a copy of Skippyjon Jones at a thrift store this week. I saw the author and artist, Judy Schachner speak at the SCBWI conference a couple of years ago and she is fantastic. She talked about how she makes a journal before every book she writes. She brought one to show and it was so inspiring to me. I actually came home from that conference and started my own journal for the middle grade book that I’m just getting around to writing now. There’s a picture in there of a little girl standing in front of a completely chaotic kitchen that changed the whole trajectory of my story. She talks about her pre-book journals in this video.

The first full week of The 1000 Day MFA finished last weekend and lots of Ninjas shared their short stories. We’re having so much fun with this program. Having a structure for reading and writing has been even more helpful than I expected it to be. It’s set up so that anyone can join us at any time, so if you want to come be a part of it, we’d love to have you. (Just sign up at Patreon at the $10 level or above and you’ll get a link to our private Facebook Group.) Try it for a month. You can stop anytime. (But I don’t think you’ll want to!)

Non-Fiction

Children’s Books

Classics + Literary

Horror

Mystery + Thriller

Speculative

YA

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Ninja Writer Book Club: 2/17/2017

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Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution this week is Chuck Wendig’s The Kick-Ass Writer. It’s basically a collection of lists of nuggets of advice. Wendig is foul-mouthed, so if that’s a turn off for you, you might want to pass. But really, you want to add this one to your list. The advice in it is golden.

This week I’m also reading from the 2016 Best American Short Stories. It was curated by Junot Diaz. I’m also reading Steel and other Stories by Richard Matheson. It’s 1950s sci fi at its very best. Matheson’s book What Dreams May Come is one of my all time favorites.

Non-Fiction

Classics + Literary

Historical

Mystery + Thriller

Romance

Short Stories

Speculative

YA + Middle Grade

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Ninja Writer Book Club: 2/10/2017

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Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution to the list this week is Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. If you haven’t read it, you really should. It’s about as perfect a writing inspiration book as there is out there. Lots of craft advice in there, too, especially about where ideas come from.

I’m working toward an MFA at Sierra Nevada College (writing for children and young adults.) Working toward an MFA in writing requires SO much reading! Here’s what I read this week.

I’m also reading A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz . It’s a fun middle grade read, and it really is dark and Grimm. The author uses himself as a third person narrator who breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the reader now and then (he really wants to make sure that no really little kids are around before he tells the gorier details of the stories.)

I’m reading some of the short stories in The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. She’s a master of subtlety in character development. Here’s an example you can read, Lily Daw and the Three Ladies.

Non-fiction

Classics + Literary

Historical

Memoir + Biography

Romance

Short Stories

Speculative

YA + Children

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Ninja Writer Book Club: 2/3/17

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Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution to this week’s list if The Imagineering Workout by The Disney Imagineers. It’s an older book, written in 2005, but full of such fun and engaging exercises. It’s not precisely about writing, but is definitely part of my writing craft library now anyway.

I’m working toward an MFA at Sierra Nevada College (writing for children and young adults.) Working toward an MFA in writing requires SO much reading! Here’s what I read this week.

Blubber by Judy Blume. I haven’t read this book since I was in the third grade. I’m slightly shocked at how intense the bullying is in it. Blubber is a middle-grade book, and an example of how dark middle grade can go (and has gone, for a long time.) It’s also still very relevant, despite the fact that it was written in the 1970s. Reading it now, as an adult, I noticed the parents’ behavior in a way I didn’t as a kid.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Another one for your writing craft library, if you don’t already own it. I’m also reading a Bradbury short story every day from Bradbury Stories. It was neat to read both in tandem, since he talks about writing those stories in Zen in the Art of Writing.

I found a copy of the 2007 Best American Short Stories at a thrift store and snapped it up. It’s curated by Stephen King. I’m not ripping through this one–I’ll read from it throughout the semester. The first story was amazing, though. Also, King’s forward about choosing the stories was thought-provoking.

Non-Fiction

Literary + Classics

Romance

Short Stories

Speculative

Thriller

Young Adult (and Children)

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10 Books I Read and Loved in 2016

Here are ten books that I really loved in 2016, in no particular order. If you’re making your 2017 reading list, any of these would be awesome additions.

Fiction that inspired me in 2016:

I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson

Pure YA, amazing character building, incredible voice. If you’re thinking of writing for teenagers, this book is a great example of how perfect YA contemporary fiction can be.

Hood, Stephen Lawhead

I have a slight obsession with the Robin Hood story. This iteration was a straight-up pleasure read for me. Loved it.

Man in White, Johnny Cash

I spent some time in Nashville this year and went to the Johnny Cash museum. As soon as I got home, I tracked down a copy of his novel. I’m always, always attracted to people who are just straight up intuitive writers. Johnny Cash is one of those people.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

Fair warning: this book made me cry so hard that my kid got worried. Utter heartbreak. Beautifully written middle grade story. I won’t be watching the movie. I can’t do that to myself. But I’m glad I put myself through the book.

Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler.

I love this book so much. I re-read it for my MFA and really looking at it as a writer was a fantastic experience. Octavia Butler is my favorite writer and this is my favorite of her books.

Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith

This was my surprise favorite read of 2016. Quirky, off-beat, and so perfect.

A Separate Peace, John Knowles

This is a classic that I’d somehow missed until this year. I really enjoyed it. Very timely and still fresh after all these years.

One-on-One, Tabitha King

This book is another favorite that I re-read for my MFA this year. There is something about this book that has drawn me back to it over and over for twenty years. Maybe more than twenty. It’s the characters. Every once in a while I just get a deep urge to visit them.

A couple of craft books that were new to me this year, and excellent:

Steering the Craft, Ursula K. Le Guin

Wonderbook, Jeff Vandermeer

Here are a few other things that are writerly, but not books, that I really loved in 2016.

First, I bought an Echo Dot this year. This little thing is like a palm-sized personal assistant. I love Alexa! She’s so responsive. I got my first iPhone this year, too, and I’ve been loving Siri, but Alexa is even better. This is the best $50 I spent all year.

I’m still learning how to use all of Alexa’s skills, but she’ll play music for me when I need some background noise, she’ll Google for me, and she’ll send me reminders. Also, I use her alarm feature to help me organize my time. I’ve set a ten minute timer on my Echo Dot about a hundred times so far.

I found a new favorite notebook. The Rhodia 6″ by 8 1/4″ stapled notebook is the perfect size. It’s got a cool, simple design. But mostly? The paper. OMG. The paper is so high-quality. I didn’t even know they made paper like this. I love when I find something that feels luxurious and special, but doesn’t cost the Earth. These notebooks cost less than $6 and are humble enough that you won’t be scared to actually write in them. And when you do write in them? Heaven.

I just ordered a few more of these so I’m all set for the new year.

If you’re going to have a notebook as awesome as the Rhodia, you want a cool pen to write in it with, right? This year I found the Preppy Platinum fountain pen that has a great hand feel and writes really well. For less than $10 you get the pen and five ink cartridges. Can’t beat that.

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“Old Gods” by Shawny Jeann

Ninja Writer Reads: "Old Gods" by Shawny Jeann

(Editor’s note: Shawny has such a lyrical, beautiful voice. This story is raw and exciting and I know you’re going to love it. Fair warning: it’s not particularly safe, for work or anywhere else. Let’s show Shawny some Ninja love. Leave her feedback in the comments and share her story on Facebook and Twitter.)

“Old Gods”

By Shawny Jeann

With him, it is fever and it is ice. With him, I burn and he leaves me frozen in place at the same time.  We come together with the pace of glaciers and the force of oceans. It is everything I said I would never be and everything I wanted to become. I am helpless to be anything but his, while my body and my blood scream to take back even the smallest amount of what I have given up.

This is entirely my doing; he has never asked for nor taken anything from me. He has been a benevolent guide, the north star in the night sky, who let me turn in his orbit until he had become so intrinsic to my universe that I couldn’t remember when and where we started. The vastness that surrounds us lets in no light, no sound from beyond the world that he has made. With no path behind me, there is no path forward and out. There is only the path that he chooses for us, and I have become a willing apostle to his teachings. I will sit at his feet, or at his right hand, keep myself close to catch even the smallest truth from his lips.

He gives only as it suits him and I am grateful because when he gives I am blinded with the intensity of it. His fingers play my ribs like strings on a harp, pulling notes from my lungs that sing hymns of ancient pleasure. His breath on my neck as he stands behind me makes tiny hairs dance with the exaltation of angels whose king has finally come.

Our sacrifices are few, and at bedtime, more often than not I am left alone, a tangled mess of want in cold sheets. I can warm them on my own with little coaxing, clever fingers knowing how to tease small tremors from my thighs and quiet sighs from my lips. It is not enough, cannot ever fill the need that he has never named. The craving is a beast, trapped in a maze of desire with the only way free through him.

“What do you want?” he whispers into my mouth, as his long man’s fingers trace curves in search of what I will give him.

The weight of him on me, the heat of skin on skin has melted my thoughts and I cannot say the thing I want most. I arch and he presses against me, holding me in place, but I feel him, his humanity betrayed, hard and already leaking, and this time I know it is really happening. He will bless me tonight and I will be grateful for every moment.

“What do you want?” he says again.

His cheek rasps against my skin. His lips are on my nipple, sucking pleasure from pain and I would tell him what I want if I had not already given all my want to him.

I want what he wants, whatever he will give or take, demand or offer. I want to see his control shatter and crash, a ship on the rocks, contrasting so much with the way I have offered myself up, crumb by crumb, leaving me naked and open with no voice but the one that moans his name as he touches needy heat.

“What do you want?” he asks as fingers stroke through my desire.

My only possible answer is to roll my hips up and my head back, to show him where to touch when I have no way to tell him.

I feel breath on my skin, puffed out over his low laugh as he continues to forge his own trail. He takes his pleasure in mine and I lack the words to say that I am the same. Our pleasure is shared, although he seems so big, and I have made myself so small. We are the same animal, because he has made me that way. Carved me out and molded me against him until my edges are soft again.

“What do you want?” he asks as tongue and fingers invade at the same time, pushing into me, searching for my response to fire his own.

He rocks against me in the old dance, two partners spinning together and away, accompanied only by the music of our breath. He seeks entrance, but will not ask for it. He will wait until I am high and spent and then take it, because I gave him my silent permission so many ages before.

“What do you want?”

His fingers leave me, empty, slide forward, find the spot. His voice purrs encouragement in my ear, a commanding litany, as I roll into him, helpless against the pull of his tide. Like a moon, he circles without getting nearer. If I had voice I would weep at the need that trembles low in my belly as his fingers stray from their course to brush closer. The trembling spreads as the tension creeps forward. I bite my lip to keep silent as he continues to work my pleasure up to meet his. Muscles tighten, try to curl in on themselves, even while stretching to reach for his warmth and weight at the same time.

“What do you want?” he asks one more time, knowing in his voice.

He knows I am lost again, I have followed him down his path once more. I would tell him not to stop, but my teeth are fastened to his shoulder; they will leave a small mark to show my passing. When the trap springs inside me, even then I do not expect it, and the blaze that follows is a fire in the forest that consumes me. It leaves me stripped and bare for him to finally take and use as he wants, to build up again in his own image, which is all I have wanted from the very beginning.

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Shawny Jeann is a romance writer from Toronto Canada. She lives with her very patient husband and her very needy cat. She came to romance reading and writing in the usual way, through vampires, cowboys, and emotionally tormented Navy SEALS. Find her at her blog or on Twitter @shawnyjeann.

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“Static” by David Fox

Ninja Writer Reads: "Static" by David Fox

(Editor’s Note: I fell in love with the poetic rhythm of David’s story. I think you will, too. Let’s show this Ninja Writer some love and leave him comments and share the link to his story around the webs. –S.)

“Static”

By David Fox

Just before you die the blood stops pumping to your brain. The last few seconds are like static from an old radio.

The afternoon is getting on, now. The sunset receding a little into the background. Any respite at all, I suppose. My skin cools. Not searing like before. I can rest easier in my seat. The needles fade…

I have been trying in vain to find something good on the radio.

The first one was modern R&B. You know. They pull some random jailbait from the school cafeteria and tell her she’ll be famous if she moans over a cheap drum machine. Mum won’t have to work two jobs. She’s really going for it too. Probably figuring if she fit enough notes in one single banshee wail they’d throw in some food as a bonus. Live the dream, right?

Next. Talk radio, the worst. Angry, conservative loudhailer. Takes calls from middle-class housewives who fall in love with the dulcet tones of his voice. Reminds them of Daddy. Talking about society going down the drain, whatever happened to real role models, the liberal media are in control and oh, I know! I know! It’s awful! Venting their frustration to their surrogate radio Dad, carefully ashing their cigarettes into their expensive glassware ashtrays. All of them dying all the same.

Another station. It’s glitzy pop music. Razor blades pushing into my brain.

There. Found the tail end of a Neil Young song. That will do. Horrible reception, suddenly. All static. I turn the radio off with the last drop of strength in my left arm. A surge of pain reminds me moving it is a bad idea. Arm falls to my side, motionless. Numb. The needles come back.

A nice little street behind me. One or two cheery little bars. Must have been packed. No one was outside.

Crisps, steak, sour cream, limes, salt, tequila, beer. Pool. Weather-beaten faces. Laughing, eating, drinking, forgetting. Cigarettes, melting into ghosts. Maybe a real guitar and a good amp. Maybe a jukebox. I would kill to get back there. Tell a joke; knock down a shot or three. Recede into the furniture, blissful. The needles are almost gone.

Orange rays moving right past me, or right through me, into the shuttered windows of the street outside, breaking into little beams, illuminating the dust that had been hovering out of sight. Thin slices of dust and light. Tangible enough that small children would try and hold them.

Boy playing on the beach. Six, seven? Not sure. Beautiful. Completely oblivious. Rolled up overalls, grubby shirt, no shoes, sand up to the knees. Unruly mop of yellow hair. Running around, hyperactive, plastic shovel and bucket in tow. Asymmetrical sandcastle, too close to the water. No one else around.

He sees me.

I can barely move my legs.

He dawdles up the beach, to the car park, to the car.

Hi there, I say. I try to sound cheerful.

“Hi.”

Where are your parents?

He raises his finger vaguely towards one of the bars. Good job, kid. Jesus Christ. If I could lift a gun I’d shoot them where they stand, I swear.

They left you out here?

“I dunno.” A shrug. Does he care? He keeps looking straight at me.

I like your sandcastle.

“It’s a house.”

Oh, well then, I like your house.

He doesn’t reply.

You built it too close to the water. It’ll get washed away.

“The other sand is too dry.”

He’s got me there. I keep hoping he’ll stop looking at me. I keep hoping he’ll get bored and walk away. But…I don’t want him to leave.

“What happened?” he finally asks.

What do you mean?

The boy lowers his gaze from my eyes to my blood soaked left arm, still clutching my balled-up coat to the hole in my chest. By now the lower half of my t-shirt and my jeans are stained crimson.

“What happened to you?”

I was in – well it doesn’t matter now. It’s grown-up stuff.

“Do you need help?”

No. Please. Don’t tell anyone.

He shuffles awkwardly. “Are you OK?”

A weak smile. It’s fine. I’ll be fine.

The boy, seemingly confused, runs back to the water. Fuck. I don’t want it to end this way. Please God, not like this, scaring some little kid half to death.

A small eternity passes.

He pulls something from the sand and runs back to the car. All smiles and excitement. Hands cupped shut.

“Here,” he says. He opens his hands to show me a seashell. I have to laugh.

That for me?

He nods. I gingerly release my coat. No use now. I take the shell from his palm.

“I found lots. You can have this one.”

I rest the shell on my eye and grimace.

Yarrr! What do you think? Do I look like a pirate?

He laughs. I wrench my watch from my wrist with my teeth and hand it to him.

Here you go. Fair trade.

He looks surprised, even suspicious. He slides it around his tiny wrist. “It’s too big.”

Just keep it in your pocket for now. Your hands will get bigger.

He shoves it in his pocket. Gestures towards his sand house.

“Do you wanna help?”

Another weak smile. I think I’m gonna rest her for a bit, pal. I’ll just watch you.

He half-smiles and runs back towards his pet project for the day. With considerable effort I pull the lever of my seat and recline back as far as possible. Needles are gone. Cold feeling now. Spreading through me like a spilled glass of cold water.

Still got the seashell on my face. The kid down there, Dennis the Menace, still digging and laughing away. I close my eyes. I listen. Fading like a dying radio, I faintly hear the sound of waves crashing, lapping towards me, away from the sun, reaching for a boy and his house.

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David is a UK-based freelance writer who writes about anything and everything including movies, television, sport and politics. You can find his contact details, and work for various sites compiled on his website David Fox Writing or reach out to @davefox990 on Twitter.

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