I’ve always been a rabid reader. One of my fondest memories is the anticipation of every other Tuesday when our city’s Bookmobile would park up the street so I could pick out all the books I could carry. What did I read? Everything. Usually things not age appropriate. I devoured anything with words: The good, the bad, and the sometimes really bad. When I opened to page one, I felt compelled to read all the way through to the end, even if it was a struggle. It was a book, after all, the story had to be in there someplace, and it was up to me to find it.
It wasn’t until I started to BUY books, that I became a more discerning reader. I remember picking up a highly hyped historical (back when they were 600 pages!) and slogging through it . . . waiting for it to get good. Just one more chapter. Maybe the next one. I read the last page and set it down in amazement. It never got any better. I felt cheated, not just out of my money, but more importantly, out of my time. I’d put real effort into that book with no pay off. That was my introduction to DNF. Did not finish.
I’m OCD. When I begin a task, it takes a natural disaster to interrupt me. So, the first time DNF struck, it made me hugely uncomfortable. I’d gotten three chapters in, far enough, I told myself, that if something’s going to happen, it would have happened by now. Kinda like a third date when you’re still not interested in kissing. Nothing. Nada. I hesitantly set the book aside. I kept glancing over at it, expecting to feel guilty, but after a few days passed and I couldn’t even recall what it was about, an empowering relief set in. I didn’t HAVE to pick it up again. I could just . . . walk away. There were other books on the shelves . . .
Then I was keyboard-deep in my own writing career, had kids, and a 9-to-5. That reading time became more precious than a soaking in the tub event (in fact, it was so valued, I combined the two!). I found myself unwilling to invest more than the first few pages. Harsh, yes. Even cruel. But reading as a writer I expected my author peer to use those first pages to grab me around the imagination and not let me go. If I was shivering in ice cold water and wrinkled like a prune, she’d done her job. If I could set it aside when reaching for the towel and not care if I picked it back up again, well, maybe I wouldn’t.
What made those books put-downable? Mind you, these were BIG books, with New York Times list placement. But that didn’t guarantee they would strike the right chord with me. Sometimes, it was just timing. I was too distracted to delve into an intricate mystery or my own Chapter Four was calling too loudly. I’d close the cover and set it in my “to be revisited’ pile. A month later, it might be just the thing. Sometimes, it was a lack of immediate connection. I’d find myself skimming, not engaged with characters or setting or plot. Just words on paper. Sometimes, it was just too much work (GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO almost lost me because of all the foreign names, but snagged me by Chapter three!). Reading is supposed to be escape—FUN! Not homework. Not a job. If it’s not fun . . . well, there’s always Netflix.
Then there are those books you crack open and you absolutely, positively cannot look away. Dean Koontz, J.D. Robb, Jeaniene Frost, Eileen Dreyer, Jennifer Greene, Sandra Brown . . . cannot put it down. You find yourself thinking about the characters during your work day and long after you read the last page. You start looking for any other books they’re written. And you’re never (well, almost never) disappointed. What makes them so infinitely readable? Boom. They’ve got you with the first page. You’re knee deep in the action. You’re drinking buddies with the hero or breathing hard in a dark alley surrounded by things that could kill you back-to-back with the heroine. You’ve been given the thread of something unbearably delicious: a secret, a threat, a heartbreak, or something too impossible to be believed . . . yet you do. They’ve got you by the imagination and don’t let go. Page after page. Book after book. You can’t wait to find out what happens next.
My recipe for a non-put-downable book? Start in the middle of something. Create questions that compel the discovery of answers. What the heck is going on? Here’s a tease from SEEKER OF SHADOWS, the sixth book in my “By Moonlight” dark paranormal series with Pockets, so recently released it still has the new book delicious smell:
He checked his watch, concerned though not yet worried. She could have been late for any number of reasons.
He risked another impatient look down the sterile hallway. Meeting in such a public place was dangerous, but neither of them could wait another three days for her schedule to open up. Anticipation growled through him. Hell, he couldn’t wait another three minutes.
He paced the storage room, hating circumstances that forced them to steal time together in closets, into hiding what neither of them was ashamed of. It wouldn’t always be this way, not if he could help it. She deserved better. She was worth more than a rushed tangle of heavy breathing on a hard tiled floor.
The door slipped open and she was in his arms, her soft scent masking the antiseptic odor of their surroundings.
At the first touch of her lips, he forgot everything beyond the sweet satisfaction of holding her tight. For a moment, consumed by the sensual feast, desire overcame the fear of discovery.
She trembled in his embrace, with eagerness he thought, until tasting the salt of her tears.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered, trying to draw her closer to the dim light so he could see her face.
She ducked her head, refusing to answer as her shaking intensified. Her breath came in quick snatches as her hands anxiously kneaded his forearms.
A cold thread of alarm began to uncoil in his gut. Then the door flew open, flooding the small room with glaring light. His first move was to thrust her behind him, shielding her from view. But she wouldn’t release him. Her hands clutched his arms, slowing his reactions for the second it took to lose whatever little advantage he might have had.
Pain, sudden and swift, dropped him to his knees. Burning, then numbness raced down his extremities until his arms and legs grew useless.
He heard her cry out in shrill distress.
“No! Don’t hurt him! Please! You promised!”
The raw emotion in her tone, the scent of her fear, tore a roar of near madness from his throat. He tried to stand, fought to get one foot under him. The effort was excruciating, yet still he struggled.
Something struck him in the temple, sending him crashing to the floor where his arms were secured behind him in cuffs of silver that ate like acid into his wrists. He pulled against them. trying to get free. To get to her.
The sound of her weeping was more caustic than the silver as his ankles were also bound, leaving him trussed and helpless.
What was happening? He couldn’t let them take her!
He tried to shout her name as a muzzling mask wrapped about his face, sealing out light, sealing in his furious snarls.
Then her hands covered his, squeezing frantically as she sobbed, “Don’t fight. Please. Just let them take you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
What was she saying? Sorry?
Then realization hit hard.
With the sudden sharp stick of a needle, anguish gave way to a slow roll into unconsciousness. Her voice was the last thing he clung to as awareness slipped from him.
“It has to be this way. I love you. I will always love you. Remember that. Remember how much I love you.”
If I’ve managed to intrigue you, I’ll be giving a copy of SEEKER Of SHADOWS to one commenter chosen at random!
What hyped book did you buy that totally failed to catch your imagination while others loved it, and why? What books keep you riveted to every word?
Nancy Gideon is the author of over 50 romance novels from historical and series suspense to paranormal when not at her day job as a legal assistant. Find out more about SEEKER OF SHADOWS and the By Moonlight series at http://nancygideon.com
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