books Archives | Sheryl Steines

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Escape Reality – The Binge Read

Escape In the Internet

Escape to the internet during a pandemic, a peaceful protest, or a riot, might not be the best landing location to while away the time. Rather than an escape, I find it puts you right in the middle. While it's great source of news, it's not a way to escape.

I do, like others, enjoy searching the internet for ideas, for deals on products, catching the news, or simply the mindlessness of the internet.

One day in February, I happened to catch an article by an AP writer, Sophia Rosenbaum that hit me at the right time. Her premise was, she learned five things by binge reading all fifty-two books in the In Death series by J.D. Robb.

To be honest, I had no idea who J.D. Robb was and looked it up; it's Nora Roberts if you didn't know. Now Sophia learned things like; you could read too much and get hurt, she loved the library, she began to think like a copy and reality and fiction are definitely not the same.

The series premise intrigued me and in late March, I downloaded my first book.

In Depth Series – Eve Dallas

As a writer, I learned that people will be drawn to your series, first and foremost, by the characters. They might not love all of them, but they better like the majority of them or they won't care what their next adventure is.

I liked Eve Dallas, I wasn't crazy about her boyfriend Roarke, loved her friends. Some things, at first bothered me, but as I continued to read, I began to love them. While the story itself wasn't the most important, some were interesting, so much so, I would download the next book, seconds after finished the current one.

I was hooked after the first book.

While I didn't realize there were short stories intermixed in the main books, (and I'll go back and read those next), I read each book as if it were my job and I had to do it well. I began to figure out who the killer was midway through. I started dreaming the characters at night, as if I were reading another book while I slept.

What I Learned

I've been lost for a long time in the attempt to sell and make a living with my books. While I realize I need more content, I've been struggling with my focus, finding something that I enjoy writing, something I would enjoy reading.

I found, this series was it for me. Much like when I read Harry Potter, my own characters started to creep inside. I could imagine what their lives would be like and the stories they could tell.

It wasn't so much what I learned, rather what I realized. These are my go to books. The police, or mystery. Strong female characters who can kick ass, and take care of themselves. I read the Kinsey Milhone series much the same way.

Why hadn't I thought to write them sooner?

Thirteen weeks after picking up my first Eve Dallas novel, I'm on book forty-nine out of fifty-two and I know this is the direction I should go in. It's entertained, I've had a place to escape to, and I understand what drives me as a reader.

Escape the Fear

I've been afraid to start a new series. I've been afraid to put myself into a new character, a new situation, a new series. I've been afraid to write to similarly to what I've enjoyed that I won't be able to distinguish myself from the others.

The book is started but as I wind my way down to the last Eve Dallas, I'm starting to get my vision of who my characters will be, their lives, their stories. It won't be the same and yet it will be reminiscent of what I love. Writer's block is only fear, and with a little perseverance, you can come out on the other side.

A lot of this I think came from finishing my own series. It left me lost, floating around, trying to find my way to the next. As I maneuver through my writing journey, I leave in the wake, one police procedural, one cozy mystery, a series of novellas, and a book of short stories.

Eve Dallas, or J. D. Robb has reminded, that this is the genre that sparked my imagination when I was seven years old; that moment when I knew I wanted to write when I was older. It reminded me, it focused me.

Books and great characters make for an escape from a world that is crazy and troubling. For me, that is why I read.

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Beginnings, Middles and Endings – Day 21

Endings

After sending book four of The Wizard Hall Chronicles, Prophecy, to my editor for a content edit, I decided it was time to plan for book five called The Rise of the Black Market. I wasn't quite ready to start the book, I was prepping the document adding a title page, the list of the books in the series, the copyright page, an acknowledgement page, Chapter 1. As I saved the beginnings of the book, it occurred to me in a very concrete sort of way, that this would be the last book I write in The Wizard Hall Chronicles.

Beginnings

The Wizard Hall Chronicles was the start of my author career. I had lived with the characters in my head for almost two years, learning about them, discovering their likes and dislikes, personality traits I wanted to explore, stories I wanted to tell, until one day I had enough confidence to sit down and finally write the story.

It started with the first draft of The Day of First Sun which in the end became over 50 drafts. Because I was new at the craft of writing novels, I ended up publishing the story three times. It was a necessary evil that propelled the story in a way I hadn't expected.

When I originally started The Wizard Hall Chronicles, I first had no series name and I had intended to write the series with stand alone books. The characters would waft in and out as they took on new paranormal cases. But that's now how the series progressed.

Middles

You see, before rewriting The Day of First Sun and publishing it for the third time, I was stuck. I published book two She Wulf, and it didn't go well. I found it difficult to move the story forward. I tried two different stories. neither worked.

I realized the problem was book one and in a flash, I was rewriting, in a major rewrite sort of way, until I had something that was so much better than any other incarnation.

When that happened, the rest of the series flew from my fingers in lightning speed. And another interesting thing happened. I found myself with a theme I never intended; the death of Annie Pearce's father. He was never supposed to be anything but Annie's background. Instead, his death was her past, her present and her future.

Sometimes you can't fight the direction the series will traverse. Sometimes you have to go with it. I went with it and it led me to the series finale, The Rise of the Black Market and I wasn't expecting how it would make me feel.

Endings

The series filled out. Characters went in and out of the stories as their roles changed or grew. I filled in more background of the characters so much so that Wizard War became the continuation of The Day of First Sun while Prophecy linked the first three books and acted as a bridge to the series finale.

But as I started Chapter 1, The Rise of the Black Market, it hit me hard. This book is the last of the series. It made me sad. It made my prematurely miss the characters that I had been living with for the last 12 years. unexpectedly, it made me long for the finale so I could start a new project, something different.

I'm a mix of emotions as I work through Annie Pearce and Cham Chamsky's final case. The case that brings all the stories together, the battle that will change their lives forever. I look forward to the work on this book, I look forward to putting the series to rest, to moving on and yet I know I will miss Annie, my alter ego. As she grew, I grew.

Beginnings, Middles and Endings

Here's to the next stage in my writing career!

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Something to Do This Weekend – Bring the Tissue Please

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I just played this game on Facebook. Ten books that left a lasting impression on you. Don't think, just type. I thought I'd share the fun. Some are heavy, some aren't as much, but they are definitely a good read if you're looking for something to do this week. Go for it. Have some fun. After all it's Friday Fun!

1) Kiss the Girls by James Patterson. There's a scene in there with milk and a snake and a girl locked in an underground hell. I read the book years ago. It still haunts me.

2) The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Written by a woman suffering from a form a mental illness in the early 1900s. Her husband sent her away to live in a summer home. She was tormented by the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom and swore she saw a woman trapped inside the hideous pattern. They both felt trapped and I felt trapped as I read the story.

3) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I knew how the book was going to end, I knew it and yet I hoped they would kiss. I hoped he'd be okay. I cried when I finished the book.

4) Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. It was the first time I was truly angry at a parent character in a book. It felt as though no one heard.

5) One Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini I had to put the book down I was shaking so hard. I could barely finish it.

6) The Diary of Anne Frank Besides crying at the nature of the book, when she says “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” I marvel at her capcity for forgiveness.

7) Jepthe's Daughter by Naomi Ragen. The father failed in his duties and left it up to his daughter to fix his mistakes and it almost cost her, her life. I seethed with anger for weeks.

8) The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides Abuse comes in all forms. This was horrible emotional abuse and even though you know the ending you still hope that they get there in time. It shook me up.

9) My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I read it after my daughter died. And I wondered would I have another baby just to save her life if that were an option. I still wonder.

10) Any Nancy Drew book or most Stephen King books. Both had an incredible influence on me and how I think about stories.

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