‘The First 50 Pages’ – A Book Review

If you can’t hook an agent or an editor, how can you expect to hook a reader?

Just finished reading‘The First 50 Pages’ Engage Agents, Editors, and Readers, and Set Up Your Novel for Success by Jeff Gerke.

Donald Maass even wrote a blurb for the cover – “From the insider’s perspective, everything they’re not telling you about your first 50 pages. Invaluable.”  Jeff is an editor and author of fiction and nonfiction. I haven’t read any of his fiction but I had read Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction”. If you are writing to publish, I would recommend this book as well. It breaks down the differences between people who outline and those who don’t and how you can improve by looking at the process from the other kind of writer’s perspective.


Jeff broke ‘The First 50 Pages’ down into two parts. Part one covers the submission process, including proposal killers and a list of mistakes he has seen over and over again with submissions.

Part two consists of what your first 50 pages needs to accomplish. He spells out what you should and shouldn’t do to get published. Jeff’s explanations are easy to understand and he uses examples of both good and bad writing. I was surprised that some of those examples were from published books and well known authors. He showed how they could have been better.

Most of the mistakes made are considered lazy writing. It’s easier to tell instead of show is probably the biggest misstep. He used both books and movies for his examples.

I plan to keep this book handy once my first draft is finished and I’ve started revisions. Jeff reinforced how important beginnings are for publication. I think my biggest surprise was his advise on prologues. He thinks they have been given a bad rap and if done effectively, he thinks they can improve the beginning of a story. Jeff did admit that some Editors are so against them that he has heard of one in particular who would rip it off the front of the manuscript and throw it away before reading the material.

If you’re looking for a writing book to help motivate you to write better, check this one out, I don’t think you will regret it.

May your writing week be productive and your reading enjoyable.


Sacrifice – S.J. Bolton

There are maybe five authors I read that I can’t wait for their next book. Whenever I find a new author to add to that list, I get excited. S.J. Bolton is one of them. Awakening was the first S.J. Bolton novel I’d ever read. It involved snakes. Lots of snakes and a female protagonist who as a veterinarian, gets pulled into helping investigate the deaths because she is one of the few people who is an expert on poisonous snakes. The story starts when she is called to the neighbors to get a poisonous snake out of a babies crib. Within a short time, several residents die and there are a few close calls. The snakes involved in the deaths are not from the area.  It was a mystery with a little paranormal twist and I loved it.

I finally found the first book – Sacrifice. It too is a mystery with a dash of paranormal story line. This one has a female protagonist who is a medical doctor who delivers babies at the local hospital on the Shetland Islands.

It starts out with her digging a grave for her horse and finding a body. At first they think it is an archaeological burial because the body had been buried in peat that causes it to be more preserved than you would expect with a normal burial. When she finds an engraved wedding ring, she suspects the body is more recent. The story goes into a local legend about an all male race of trolls with special abilities. The mothers are, of course, sacrificed for the cause but no one will believe her. It looks like all the prominent men in the area are involved, including the police and her own father-in-law and husband.  Ms. Bolton weaves the story line in a way that you believe.

Bolton is great at pacing. She tells just enough to reel you in and when it gets to the scary stuff she draws it out just enough to make you suffer. Because you never know exactly what is happening, I would call her books more mystery than horror. There is always a puzzle to piece together right to the very end.

There are a couple more for me to read and with my pile of to-be-read growing steadily, I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets another out before I get her current stuff read.  If you like your mysteries with a little bump in the night, you need to check out S.J. Bolton.

I’d Like to Introduce Sparkle Abbey

I continue to plug along writing my current work in progress. Each day I get a few more pages done. I truly think writing a novel is probably the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. When it is finished, I hope I will think it was the most satisfying.  It’s just getting there. Each day, I try to enjoy the moment and there are moments that are enjoyable. I love when I get in the zone. If you write, you know what I mean. When it happens, it feels like you are lost in the story. I tend to produce a lot more words. I know what I want to say and it flows easily. That doesn’t happen every day. I have found that it happens more often though, when I glue my butt to the chair and write. Even though I would much rather curl up in front of a good movie with Mr. G. I keep telling myself it will be worth it in the end.

Over the years, I have met quite a few writers and some of them use their own name and some don’t. Some publishers request you use another name. After working so hard to finish a book, I think it would be nice to be able to put my name on it but I also know that it is a business and as writers we probably should listen to the people who want to see us be successful. I suppose if that was a requirement for publication, I probably would do it.

Desperate Housedogs

I ran into a couple of my author friends at an event this weekend and they have their first book out. They had to make that choice and I know how difficult it was for them, because I know how long they have been writing and like me, they really wanted to see their name on that cover. They agreed to use a pseudonym.  They go by the name Sparkle Abbey. They came up with that name when the publisher insisted they needed a name to tie the series together because they co-write. Sparkle is Maylee’s cat and Abbey is Anita’s dog. Marylee Woods is a writer friend I met at least 15 years ago when I joined the local chapter of RWA. She co-writes with Anita Carter, someone else I have known for a while. They co-write the Pampered Pet Mystery Series and the first of four books they have sold came out recently, Desperate Housedogs. They have a unique way of collaborating. They share the same setting, Laguna Beach, CA and the same secondary characters. They each have their own protagonist. They plot their books together and often sit across the same table to write so that they can bounce ideas off of each other, along the way. Marylee wrote book one, Anita wrote book two that will be coming out in early 2012, Marylee will write book three and Anita, book four. Marylee’s protagonist is a pet therapist, while Anita’s protagonist is a cousin to Marylee’s and she owns a pet boutique. The two women are former beauty queens from Texas and currently are not speaking. They are both feuding over a god-awful ugly brooch their grandmother left to “her favorite granddaughter”. She didn’t specify exactly who she meant. I read the book and think it is so clever and such a good read. If you like cozy mysteries that make you laugh; you really need to check this one out. I think they have a great future with this series. Future books are titled, ‘Get Fluffy’, Kitty, Kitty, Bang, Bang’ and ‘Yip, Tuck’. I can’t wait to read them.

I know they each would rather have seen their own name on the cover but I think they made the right choice and if they keep producing this quality of cozy mystery, it really won’t matter. They will be around for a long time and everyone who really knows them will know who Sparkle Abbey is.

Until next time, keep writing… and reading.


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