Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Prologue is Dead. Long Live the Prologue. #writing

Ahh, writing advice. What glorious frustration. So little consensus. So much contradiction. As nice as it would be to think there's an absolute 'right' answer to every writing question, much of it (perhaps all of it) boils down to opinion. Seriously. Things as fundamental as the serial comma and capitalization at the beginning of a sentence (think E. E. Cummings) are negotiable.

One of the most contentious topics in writing is the prologue. Merriam-Webster defines a prologue as: the preface or introduction to a literary work. Seems innocuous enough, but apparently not. People are passionate in either direction; they absolutely love prologues or utterly disdain their use.

It's a lazy way of introducing backstory, they say.

Everybody knows that nobody reads prologues, they say. If you want anybody to read it, put it in Chapter 1.

I'm a prologue lover, and not convinced the prologue should be written off, so to speak. Check out how these Big Best Selling authors use prologues:

In FEVER OF THE BONE, Val McDermid lets the protagonist tell us how they justify the murder(s) they are committing. We get a taste the very logical insanity to follow.

J.R.R. Tolkien uses the long prologue to THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING to introduce the world we're entering. We learn about hobbits, their talents, their habits, even their pipe tobacco preferences. More importantly, Tolkien summarizes Bilbo Baggins' finding of the ring in THE HOBBIT, the event that drives the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

I think Clive Cussler uses prologues in all of his books. If I've read one without a prologue, I can't remember it. His prologues are set in a period of time before the main story - sometimes centuries, sometimes decades - and provide historical context for the thriller to follow. They also provide clues to the mystery winding through that thriller.

The prologue to Stephen King's THE STAND tells us how the horror begins, and gives us a hint of the terror to come. [Charlie wakes his wife Sally in the middle of the night, in the middle of his shift at the military base, frightening her as he hustles his family into the car and off the base. Something has gone wrong. The clock went from green to red and whatever it is, whatever they do in that lab, killed those nearest it quickly. Charlie should be dead, too, but the computerized fail-safe failed and here he is, out in the wide world, driving east because the wind is blowing west. It wasn't long before Charlie was coughing steadily. (I couldn't wait to start Chapter 1.)]

In each case, the prologue makes the book better. (See? Opinion.) When I read the word 'prologue', it's as if the author has pulled out a comfy chair, giving me a chance to settle in, put my feet up, adjust that little cushion behind my back, and feel a delicious rush of anticipation about what's to come.

I love prologues when they:

  • are relatively brief
  • provide a bit of world building that would otherwise drag down the first few chapters
  • give the reader one-up on the characters by providing a look into a villain's mind or a glimpse at a future event
  • describe an event that happens in a time period different from the main story, either past or future, with a reference back to that event to give the reader that 'aha!' moment and make us feel smart

I've used prologues in the Cass Elliot novels to give readers a glimpse of the killer Cass will hunt. To share a bit of that killer's personality, psychology, or methodology. I've also used a prologue to describe a crime that occurred almost 40 years ago, and triggers the present-day mystery to follow.

How do you know if a prologue is right for your books? Read other books in the same genre and see how prologues work - or don't. If you plan to query a particular agent, visit her website and find out how she feels about the prologue. If she despises them and you love them, leave it out. If you're self-published, ask your beta readers and editor if they think the prologue adds to your story.

Bottom line: If you try to follow all the writing advice out there, you'll go nuts from trying to reconcile all the contradictions. My advice for what it's worth: find the style that works for you and stick with it. If prologues light you up, write them. If not, don't.

Do you use prologues, and if so, how? Do you like reading prologues? Why or why not?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nine #Romance Novels - for #FREE from @BestSellingRead

For all my book loving friends - sign up for the Best Selling Reads email list by February 29 and receive 9 romance novels - for FREE! See details below.


To celebrate the month of love, BestSelling Reads is giving away 9 romance novels — for FREE.
That’s right: you can download a file with 9 great romances. All you have to do is subscribe to their email newsletter. And you can unsubscribe again at any time.

Here’s what’s inside:

Get them all now for free at

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

UNDER THE NAZI HEEL - New #Historical #Fiction from Scott Bury (@ScottTheWriter)

New historical fiction release coming February 29 - UNDER THE NAZI HEEL by my friend Scott Bury!

UNDER THE NAZI HEEL is the second book in the Walking Out of War series, which is a memoir in novel form. The books are based on the experiences of Scott's father-in-law, Maurice Bury. From 1942 to 1944, Maurice Bury was a member of the Ukrainian underground resistance and fought against the German occupation of Ukraine.

Read on for a sneak peek of Book 2, and get a copy of Book 1, ARMY OF WORN SOLES, on Amazon.

Walking Out of War, Book 2

About the Book

For Ukrainians in 1942, the occupying Germans were not the only enemy.

Maurice Bury was drafted into the Red Army just in time to be thrown against the invading Germans in 1941. Captured and starved in a POW camp, he escaped and made his way home to western Ukraine, where the Nazi occupiers pursued a policy of starving the locals to make more “living space” for Germans.

To protect his family, Maurice joins the secret resistance. He soon finds the Germans are not the only enemy. Maurice and his men are up against Soviet spies, the Polish Home Army and enemies even closer to home.

Experience this seldom seen phase of World War 2 through the eyes of a man who fought and survived Under the Nazi Heel.


Komorski could not hope to keep his pathetic café warm. Ice built up around the windows and at the threshold, where the cold slithered under the door. Like the rest of the patrons, Maurice kept his hat and coat on as they sipped lightly tinted water and exchanged what little news they had. “My poor cows are suffering in this weather,” said one, when the door opened and a blast of winter air slapped Maurice’s cheek and threw newspapers off the tables. Hrech Zazulak, nearly swallowed by a fur coat and hat, stepped inside and struggled against the wind to pull the door closed again. He shook the snow off himself as he scanned the room. Apparently satisfied with the people he found in the café, he opened his coat and laid it over the back of a chair.

Out of the coat, Zazulak was a tall, thin man with thinning black hair and thick eyebrows. His cheeks were hollow and always covered with black stubble, no matter how recently he had shaved. The day that Maurice had returned home after nine months of fighting in the Red Army, and weeks starving in a German prison camp, Zazulak had tried to recruit Maurice into a secret underground struggle against the German occupation.

He reached inside the fur coat and took out a broadsheet. “Latest edition, boys.” He spread it across the nearest table—Free Ukraine, only two days old. “Fritz is taking heavy losses in Tula, and Ivan recaptured Klin to the north weeks ago.”

The men gathered around the newspaper, craning their necks to read about German losses across the front, about underdressed soldiers freezing to death. There was a story about a siege of Leningrad, starvation in the streets and cannibalism.

Germany and the USSR had frozen together in a death-grip. “Can you trust this?” Maurice asked Zazulak.

“More than Pravda or the shit the Germans spew out,” Zazulak said. “But Pravda corroborates the OUN. Read it well, boys, then burn it.”

Maurice scanned the rest of the paper as well as he could, sharing it with a half-dozen men. When he looked out the window, he felt a shock at how dark it was. He pulled his scarf up higher on his neck, waved a farewell to Komorski and stepped out, careful to push the door shut.

It opened again and Zazulak stepped out, grabbing for his hat when the wind tore it off his head. He followed Maurice down the road. “You were a member, before the war,” he said.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Maurice felt his pulse in his neck. “The Communists killed all of OUN in 1939.” He sped up, but walking against the wind, in snow half-way to his knees, made for slow going.

Zazulak put his hand on Maurice’s shoulder and stopped him. “The Soviets didn’t kill all of OUN, and neither have the Germans. And there are other organizations, too. Don’t worry, Maurice. I’m not here to betray you.”

“It’s too cold to stand here. If you want to talk to me, walk with me.” Maurice struggled through the snow, head down. The wind stung his face and snowflakes kept landing on his eyelashes.

“Ukraine needs men like you, Maurice,” Zazulak said, his voice muffled by his fur coat.

“What do you mean, men like me?” But he knew the answer.

“Men with military experience. Smart men. Able men.”

Maurice shivered and pulled his scarf over his nose. He tried to walk faster, but that just made his feet slip back with every step forward.

“Men are building an army for Ukraine,” Zazulak continued. “You’ve heard of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.”

“Never,” Maurice lied.

About the Author
Scott Bury just cannot stay in one genre.

After a three-decade career in journalism, his first published fiction was a children’s story, followed by an occult spy thriller. The Bones of the Earth, his first novel, crossed the boundaries between historical fiction and magic realism. He has also published spy thrillers and two police procedurals set in Hawaii.

Under the Nazi Heel is the sequel to Army of Worn Soles. They describe the real life experiences of Maurice Bury, a Canadian living in Ukraine during World War 2.

You can find Scott’s books and other writings at his website, The Written Word, and connect with him at:

•    His blog, Written Words
•    On Facebook at Scott Bury Author
•    His Amazon Author page
•    Or on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.