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Tea & Other Ayama Na Tales by Eleanor Bluestein

Welcome to the TLC Book Tour stop for Eleanor Bluestein‘s Tea & Other Ayama Na Tales. Today, we have a bunch of things in store for you. After my review, please take a trip through Eleanor’s writing space (complete with photos) and enter the giveaway for her short story book, Tea & Other Ayama Na Tales.

About the Book:

The ten stories in Tea and other Ayama Na Tales take place in the fictional country of Ayama Na, a small Southeast Asian nation recovering from a devastating internal coup and a long drought, both of which have left the population reeling.

The fictional country of Ayama Na is inspired by the sights and sounds of Southeast Asia. A street of fortune tellers in Ayama Na borrows details from one in Singapore; royal palaces, Buddha shrines, and hill tribes echo their counterparts in Thailand; sidewalk cafes in Ayama Na’s capital roll up corrugated metal exteriors and blare music to the street as they do in Viet Nam. But in emotional content and historical detail, Ayama Na most closely resembles Cambodia, where a brave young population, still rebuilding both country and culture in the wake of the Khmer Rouge genocide, operates with a seriousness of purpose and good humor that fills the author of this collection with awe and admiration.

Bluestein’s short stories read like morality plays in which flawed characters struggle with what actions will lead them on the right path and bring about justice. From the McDonald’s worker, Mahala, who wants to set things right for her friend, co-worker, and fellow student, Raylee, to Dali-Roo, a down-on-his-luck farmer working at a Sony factory to make ends meet, Bluestein uses scene breaks to build tension and quicken the pace for some of her more ambitious story lines. She also does an excellent job of weaving in details of her fictional South Asian location, Ayama Na, including the setting, the language, and Asian mysticism.

“Home was a houseboat in a floating village not far from the mouth of the lake, a squalid kitchen and cramped bunk beds ruled over by a mother who hadn’t attended school three days in her life, who worked morning to night cooking and mending nets for Song’s father and brothers, whose stained and wrinkled hands smelled of shrimp and dried fish. The houseboat lapped up and down and moved in and out at the mercy of the weather, and in the dry season, it flowed with the whole floating village closer to the center of the lake, exposing garbage-strewn banks.” (“Skin Deep,” Page 77)

Readers will enjoy many of the stories in this volume, including “Skin Deep,” in which a university student, Song, enters a beauty pageant and takes a year off from school. She has no talents to speak of, but eventually writes and recites three poems before the local judges and wins the competition. Once at the nationals, she concludes she needs a more dazzling talent and embarks upon a journey. She becomes an amateur ventriloquist. The scenes between Song and her mother are wrought with tension because Song is not fulfilling her destiny, and her automaton, Lulu, agrees. The final scene of this story drives the moral home and–like many of the other stories in this book–with a bang.

“While he waited for the artist to take a breath and notice him, Jackman studied the tiny iridescent beetle exploring the edge of Faraway’s beard, the grime sloshing in the creases of his sweaty forehead, the shivers regularly shaking a body swaddled for a brisk fall Philadelphia day.” (“The Artist’s Story,” Page 94)

Each of these stories highlights the struggles facing the people of Ayama Na, which may mirror the struggles of many emerging nations today, as they strive to hold onto their traditions in the face of modernization and globalization. In many cases the modern world is juxtaposed with the cultural norms of this fictional society, and almost all of the characters are faced with a moral dilemma. From the surprise endings in “Skin Deep” and “Pineapple Wars” to quieter changes in character in “The Artist’s Story,” Bluestein is a gifted storyteller who will have readers examining their own lives and learning how to integrate their own cultural roots into their modern lives. These stories also help us examine larger societal issues, like providing aid to devastated nations and cities like New Orleans and China and providing assistance to developing nations. Bluestein’s short story collection showcases her talents, and the book will provide fodder for book club discussion.

Also Reviewed By:

Meghan
The Bluestocking Society
Bookstack
Nerd’s Eye View
Lotus Reads
8Asians
1979 Semi-finalist…
Ramya’s Bookshelf
Feminist Review
Trish’s Reading Nook
Everything Distils Into Reading
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

About the Author:

Eleanor Bluestein grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, and attended Tufts University. After graduating with a degree in biology, Eleanor taught science in public school, first in New York and then in Maryland.

For a decade, along with an early literary mentor, Mel Freilicher, Eleanor co-edited Crawl Out Your Window, a San Diego based journal featuring the work of local writers and artists.

Eleanor spent a year in Paris, France, writing fiction and studying French at the Alliance Française. Later, she completed a Professional Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language at U.C. San Diego. These experiences found their way into the novel Syntax, a current project.

I’d like for you to welcome Eleanor to Savvy Verse & Wit at its new domain.

Above my desk, on the wall to the right of my computer screen, there’s a framed collage created by Matt Foderer, an artist I worked with some years ago. Along with other writers, designers, artists, and computer programmers, Matt and I sat at cubicles in a vast office space, producing multimedia educational products. I wrote words; Matt did computer graphics to accompany the text.

We were as creative as we possibly could be, mindful of the kids who would use these instructional products. But Matt and I both wished we were somewhere else—he creating his own art in the studio behind his house, I at my computer in my narrow home office writing stories.

I have purchased several works of art from Matt—two oil paintings for my living room and the collage on the wall that you see in the photo of my office. I want to describe it to you a little more in words and tell you what it means to me. You can also see it in detail at Matt Forderer.

The collage is one in a series Matt calls “Typewriterheads.” In each work in this series, against some intriguing setting, Matt has placed a human figure who has an antique typewriter where his head should be. In the collage I own, standing with his back to the ocean, is a person I imagine to be a waiter, apron-clad, towel in his hands, an old Underwood for a head. To the waiter’s right a plane lands on the water, a goat on a rock rises from the ocean, and in the sky, looking for all the world like a flying saucer, a huge shell whirls against the clouds.

I bought this collage because, to me, it portrays the poignant life of a writer who needs to work for a living while his head teems with the fantastic stories he dreams of writing. And also because Matt’s collage represents what I aspire to in my own work. Like his art, I want my writing to be funny, smart, evocative, hyper-imaginative, a bit surreal, and poignant, all at the same time. That’s a tall order, and probably why there are so many pages on my cutting room floor.

I no longer live a “cubicle life.” I am fortunate. So many individual’s creative lives are limited or outright thwarted by poverty, illness, war, and the myriad other forms bad luck takes. So if I struggle to get the words on the page, if they fall short of what I hope for, if some days the delete key gets more pounding than any other, if I even think of forgetting how lucky I am, I can look up at my wall. There’s that waiter with his back to the ocean and the untyped words swirling in his funny old typewriter head, wishing he were me, sitting at my desk, making up stories.

Thank you so much Eleanor for an inspiring guest post! Now readers, if you would like to read Eleanor’s short story collection, Tea & Other Ayama Na Tales, check out the giveaway details below.

***Giveaway***

This is open internationally.

1. Leave a comment on this post about what you enjoyed most about this tour stop or what inspires you as a writer.

2. Spread the word about this giveaway and leave me a link on this post for a second entry.

3. Become a follower and leave me a comment telling me that you did (If you already do follow me, please leave me a comment about that) for a third entry.

Deadline is May 6, 2009; 11:59PM EST

Check out the other stops on the tour:

Wednesday, April 1st: The Bluestocking Society

Monday, April 6th: Bookstack

Thursday, April 9th: Nerd’s Eye View

Friday, April 10th: Lotus Reads

Monday, April 13th: 8Asians

Wednesday, April 15th: 1979 Semi-finalist…

Friday, April 17th: Ramya’s Bookshelf

Monday, April 20th: Feminist Review

Thursday, April 23rd: Trish’s Reading Nook

Tuesday, April 28th: Medieval Bookworm

Wednesday, April 29th: Savvy Verse and Wit

*** Giveaway Reminders***

There’s a giveaway for 5 copies of Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch, here; deadline is April 29, 2009, 11:59 PM EST.

A giveaway of The Mechanics of Falling by Catherine Brady, here; Deadline is May 1 11:59 PM EST

5 Joanna Scott, author of Follow Me, books giveaway, here; Deadline May 4, 11:59 PM EST.

Rowan of the Wood by Christine and Ethan Rose

I’d like to welcome Christine Rose and Ethan Rose, authors of Rowan of the Wood, to Savvy Verse & Wit. They kindly offered an epic poem in honor of National Poetry Month.

In th’ mists of time of ages past,

Two mighty druids were wed.
By truth and wisdom, strong and kind,
Their people would be led.
But raiders came from ‘cross the sea
And tore the two asunder.
With blades of steel and a righteous god,
They came to kill and plunder.
The Samhain gate let some escape
And hide in the Summer Land.
Fiana went through; but Rowan remained
To protect their tribal band.
…but alas…
He waited too long; the door was gone
When he went to join his wife.
The men approached; He hid in his wand
To try and save his life.
In one year’s time, the door would op’n,
Then Fiana could release him
But a warrior monk then grabbed the wand
And carried if off on a whim.
When she returned, her heart did break.
Her love was not t’be found.
She vowed her life to find her love
And searched the world around.
She traveled far to tell her tale
With spells both canny n’strong.
The wand still lost, eluded by fate:
Her powers almost gone.
To another she went and power he lent
To keep her hale much longer.
A boon he sought; companions he gave
To continue her quest far stronger.

With th’ Sons of Fey in canine form

And a century more of life,
She sought the spor though the trail was cold.
A true and faithful wife.
An impossible quest, pursued without rest
But still she would not falter.
She search the East; She searched the West.
Her goal she would not alter.
Her companions true, in closeness drew
And helped her on her way.
Sharing her road their pleasures few
Beside her never to stray.
Though th’ road was dark; their future stark,
Their quest now grown to a myth,
She journeyed on and left a cairn
For Rowan, a stone kiss.
New century gone and death approached!
A choice now had to be made.
To darkness turn and companions lose:
A grim and costly trade.
Moroi had come with their midnight ways
to offer life eternal.
Death the price and endless thirst,
Her fate now infernal.
The sun was lost; the earth was gained.
The canine spells were broken.
Two fled in fear; the mad remained.
Their bond but now a token.
Her soul was lost beyond recall.
Her quest became a danger.
If ever she found her missing love,
To him she’d be a stranger.
With darkness entwined; her power combined,
Would give rise to something evil.
Deep, dark despair would cover the earth
And cause a great upheaval.
So Arthur knew, and Duncan too,
That she could not succeed.
The Sons of Fey must find the wand,
So it could be concealed.
They traveled far on separate roads
‘Til their quest had ended.
Now hidden deep ‘neath puissant spells,
The wand, it fin’ly rested.

For more information about this book, check out their Website and check out the book trailer.

About the Book:

An ancient wizard possesses a young boy after a millennium of imprisonment in a magic wand. He emerges from the child in the face of danger and discovers Fiana, his new bride from the past, has somehow survived time and become something evil.

About the Authors:

Christine & Ethan Rose have marvelous imaginations. Often finding their inspiration among the trees, they write as they lead their lives…with plenty of adventure, magic and love. Although many tragic heroes begin as orphans, Ethan actually was one. He grew up amongst the magical redwoods in Northern California and has read virtually every fantasy novel ever written. Anglophile Christine holds her M.A. in Medieval/Renaissance Literature & Folklore. She wrote her Master’s Thesis on Le Morte D’arthur, and produced two documentary films. Christine’s scholarly, goal-oriented background mixed with Ethan’s in-depth knowledge of modern fantasy creates an impenetrable team of writers who look forward to writing more books together. They live in Austin with their three canine kids and Shadow, the cat. This is their premiere novel.

Sharon Lathan and Her Writing Guest Post

I am so honored by Serena allowing me to guest blog for the day. Especially when she agreed to the arrangement before reading my novel! I can imagine it must have been a happy relief when she read Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One and actually loved it. It certainly was for me. Receiving glowing reviews doesn’t get old, I assure you.


I never tire of talking about my novels and the adoration for the Darcys that I possess. I suppose it is fortuitous that I am still enamored by these characters and the life I have created for them since I am required to incessantly dwell upon some aspect of my series in the course of writing these essays. The immense satisfaction and passion I bear for my saga makes it easy to answer the questions Serena asked for this blog, but I am afraid the answers are rather boring. You see, she requested I chat about my writing routine and what inspires me. The truth is I have little in the way of routine since my life is extremely hectic, and inspiration is typically wildly forthcoming! But let me see if I can novelize it into something riveting. LOL!


Routine is a foreign word to me. I have worked as an RN on 12-hour night shifts for close to twenty years. My shifts fall in a haphazard fashion that no one in my family can begin to keep track of. Heck, I have to check my calendar several times a week to avoid a mishap! Between strange sleeping patterns, family obligations, and housewife chores, sitting down to focus on writing ends up being fit in wherever possible. Fortunately I am blessed with an amazingly understanding and supportive husband and children. They have gradually assumed more responsibility so I can lose myself on the laptop. It can be a challenge to arrange my necessary quiet, concentration time into their individual schedules, but they are fabulous in their encouragement and assistance.


Case in point: When I began writing I used the computer designated for the children. That soon became a serious time-allotment issue as my obsession grew. I can remember so many forlorn, pleading glances sent my way as one of them politely begged to be allowed to play a game or finish a report! After 2 months my husband insisted on buying me a laptop – a move that I saw as a heinous extravagance for my ‘hobby’ – but he did it anyway. Needless to say my Toshiba is now one of my best friends and I think I would probably curl up in a fetal ball if it ever died on me. *crossing fingers and knocking on several wooden surfaces* Then, this past summer as he saw me struggling with the noisy distractions as I worked from my comfy recliner in the living room, he insisted we buy a desk and ergonomic chair for our bedroom. If that meant another set of expenses and total rearranging of our bedroom, the end result was propitious. I not only got the bedroom spotlessly cleaned and a ton of junk thrown away, but I now have a perfect place to write AND keep all my publishing related stuff. Cool!


What I have learned throughout these years since my journey began is that I need quiet. Some ambient noise is nice, such as the bubbling of my fish tank or the hum of the heater or tumbling of the dryer. But generally I prefer to sink into my solitary zone. Therefore, I move back and forth from my recliner and desk depending on who is home with the TV and/or Xbox blaring. Both places are set up to suit my personal needs, i.e. – a place to sit my espresso, a table top for notebooks, pillows for lap and back support, and good lighting. Nothing fancy, but functional and organized. I am rather OCD about these things!


Yet, interestingly enough, as much as I prefer all environmental elements to fit the prescribed mode, if my handsome muse is inspiring me, I can get lost no matter what is going on externally. I have done some of my best writing while riding in the car, while on vacation in our tiny trailer, while half-asleep after a long night at work, and while the family watches some action flick! It is also fortunate that after over two decades of a nurse’s bizarre time-table and rapid refocusing skills, it means I instinctively adjust to the needs of the moment. I may LIKE to have utter silence, but I can function just about anywhere. Nice, huh?


So what tricks must my handsome muse employ to get me into writing-mode? Whatever they are, I think he is hiding them up his fine-woolen jacket sleeve for now because I have rarely required any formulas or kicks in the tushie to get me motivated. The truth is that I so adore writing a happy, yes, mostly angst/conflict-free story of Regency life for my favorite couple that I do not have to push myself all that hard. Generally the ideas and vivid dreams are blasting at me so vigorously that my only trouble is keeping them ordered.


This whole ‘writing thing’ is new in my life and a huge surprise; thus I have zero experience or frame of reference. I take it one day at a time with minimal knowledge of how it usually is – if there is a ‘usual.’ From the beginning I had a simple vision, a clear vision of bringing fans of Elizabeth and Darcy into the inner sanctum, sharing in their happiness and intimacy while traveling down the road of an accurate accounting of life in the early 1800s. I was never aiming for sensationalism or heavy drama, but rather an exploration of normalcy. Perhaps that is one reason why the story has been so delightful and easy to tell. I rarely struggle over what trauma to throw in their path, what horrid secret to toss in to cause division, or what dilemma to create so they can fight. The Regency world is fascinating and the English culture of the day beautiful. I prefer to write my characters into that setting as they love and dance and live, taking the reader along for the ride! What drama I do add is usually of a typical type, or if bigger – like a duel – written plausibly and resolved in a timely manner.


Some specifics: I write using Microsoft Word, breaking the whole into parts for me to easily access. I have tried one writer’s program, but did not like it, so I am sticking with the basics! I backup constantly on a secondary hard drive, on CDs, and on a smart-stick. I am terrified of losing my material! I have sticky-pads and notebooks in handy places so I can quickly jot an idea or fact. Since my Darcy Saga has now spanned over 2 years, I have created detailed character lists, timelines, and family trees so I can reference info fast. I have several dictionary, thesaurus, and vocabulary-related websites bookmarked and open as I write. I also have easily a hundred or more historical or other data-related sites bookmarked, all organized into a dozen folders that I can click on when I need clarification or research. I have friends and contacts in the UK who assist me with details. I have hundreds of pictures of England terrain, places, and historical people and items to aid with accurate descriptions.


Many ideas for storylines are inspired simply by reading through English history or geography. I keep Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in my desk drawer and although I do not pull it out as often now since the characters have evolved into my own, I certainly did in the early days! I must have read that book a thousand times, even if it was in pieces. Of course I love the 2005 movie, and the poster on my wall and array of stills flashing across my laptop screen keep me in the proper frame of mind.


The last question Serena asked was what inhibits my writing. The answer falls into two stages. Early on, when I was just writing for fun and to please a steadily growing number of fans of JAFF, nothing inhibited me. Then I discovered something that threw me for a loop and took me many long months, years almost, to come to grips with. That is, the critics. I know this is a normal part of the process, and without going into a long dissertation, let’s just say that there are people in this world whose soul purpose is to tear down. Long before I even thought of getting published, the nasties began to attack, purely for the joy of causing pain. Once I did take steps into the publishing world, they came out in droves, utterly convinced that it is their duty to tell me how I should or should not write. Being such a novice, and very ignorant of this part of the machine, it brought me to my knees more than once and I can’t tell you how often I almost gave up. Fortunately I had amassed far more devoted fans than naysayers. So I persevered, grew a tougher skin, learned to shrug it off, and now have a deeper understanding of motivations.


Now what inhibits me is simply time. Getting published is the greatest thing on the earth and I have NO REGRETS! But, it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility and work attached. There are long lulls when I am waiting for the next part of the process to occur, and I latch onto that for furious writing. Then there are the frantic times with several deadlines, approaching launch dates, edits, website chores, endless phone calls, and so on! It is fabulous, but don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t hard work.


There you have it! The oh-so-NOT-glamorous life of this here author. Be assured I am not holding my breath for the call to be on Oprah!


For even more information about me or my Darcy Saga series of novels, come to my website.

***Giveaway Details:***

Want to win a copy of Mr. & Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One? This contest is international because I am donating my gently used copy to the cause and the U.S./Canada winner will receive one directly from Sourcebooks. So there will be 2 winners!

1. To enter, leave a comment here (other than “Enter Me” or “Pick Me”)

2. Spread the word about the contest to others, and come back here leaving me a comment with a link to your blog post or other form of “word-spreading.”

Deadline will be March 14 at Midnight EST. Good Luck!

Owen Fiddler by Marvin D. Wilson

Marvin Wilson’s morality tale Owen Fiddler chronicles the bad behavior of one man–Owen–from his early years as a boy through adulthood and how his life spirals out of control. He meets his wife Jewel and they have a daughter Frenda, who becomes the light of Owen’s life. Frenda is Owen’s foil in this tale.

Owen is a womanizer, a drunkard, a liar, and behaves horribly toward his mother, stepfather, and brother. When the reader thinks nothing can get worse for Owen, it does. Not once throughout the novel does Owen take responsibility for his actions or the consequences. There is always someone else to blame–his brother Paize, his stepfather, his friends, and others.

Not only is Owen an unlikeable character, but the author introduces us to a cast of unique characters, including Lou Seiffer (Lucifer) who is a truck driver that lends Owen money and Kris (Jesus Christ). The reader will have a hard time rooting for Owen to get a brain and evolve, but his daughter Frenda makes the reader want Owen to improve at least for his daughter’s sake, if not his own. The novel is fast-paced weaving in and out of the past to tell Owen’s story and that of his family, but in some sections the author’s thoughts on the subject are interjected rather than allowing the characters’ thoughts and feelings take center stage (see page 143)

Flat-footed just a couple of inches taller than Frenda. With her heels on, she stood a little taller than he did. His male ego was being spanked a wee tad. She could sense this, also sensed he was too proud to say anything about it. . . . Men. . .so tough on the outside and yet so easily bruised on the inside.

Although Frenda would care about how her date, Robert, felt while she was wearing heels, the earlier character buildup for Frenda does not support the sort of sarcastic statement about males being tough on the outside and easily bruised on the inside.

On page 119:

Cigarette tasted nasty. He snuffed it out amongst the dozens of other butts in the ashtray. Dim lights, cheap plastic checkerboard table coverings, the sights and sounds surrounding him: the working class indebted proletariat, his colleagues in misery. . .it all cast a gloom over him.

The above passage does have some great description to place the reader in the scene with Owen, and the reader can smell and taste what surrounds him, but in the same moment, it seems the author enters the scene. Uneducated Owen is not likely to know the term “proletariat” unless he’s been educating himself in between his romps in the hay and nights on the barstool. There are a number of these passages that can distract the reader, but there also are some great descriptive passages that capture the reader’s attention. Check out page 24:

An officer, a sullen five foot ten stocky bad omen, called out to her from the front lawn, “Mrs. Fiddler?”

Marvin Wilson tells a story of one man, an everyman, and his descent into oblivion and the perilous journey that leads to his salvation. Readers looking at today’s society and how it has deteriorated can take away a lesson from this book. It is not only an evolution of Owen Fiddler, but can become an evolution of readers and others in today’s me-first society. I applaud Wilson’s efforts to espouse change. Christians could find fault with some of the scenes near the end of the book, though readers should cast aside their indoctrination and take from this book its overall message–forgiveness, change, and selflessness are important to reforming ourselves and society.

I’d like to welcome Marvin D. Wilson, author of Owen Fiddler, to Savvy Verse & Wit to share his transformation from a “free spirit” hippie to a disciplined individual and writer. Here’s his thoughts on his own transformation:

Freedom through Discipline

I was able to go to college on a music scholarship. My father was a poor Christian minister, and had I not been born with the gift of music, the advantage of higher education would have been denied me. Thanks to my God-given talents, I was able to go. I was a music major with a thespian minor at Central Michigan University. At age eighteen, I thought I knew everything. I had talent, intelligence, youthful bold confidence and a brash attitude, and a social/political/religious view of our world (this was the late 1960’s, mind you) that was one of “I know everything.” And anyone who disagreed with me (especially my parents and any authority figures in the older generation, those despicable leaders of the hypocritical oppressive “Orwellian – big brother” government of the times), were dead wrong. I was a “Free Spirit,” venturing forth into a brave new world that me and my Hippie friends were forging with our new lifestyle, our drugs, sex and rock and roll religion of freedom.

In my freshman year at college, I met Professor Stephen Hobson. He was my choir director and my private lesson voice coach. He looked to me to be in his late sixties. He was (well, he seemed to me at the time) stodgy and stiff, and a strict disciplinarian. He demanded of me a level of self-discipline and rigorous diurnal practice regimen that I was completely without the ability to understand, let alone adhere to. One little flutter in-between voice registers, any tiny slippage in tonal and/or pitch control when singing my assigned lessons in his torture chambers he called a “practice room” every Wednesday, he would stop playing his piano accompaniment, look at me with this “you know as well as I that that was not good enough” expression and demand that I try it again. Over and over … until I got it perfect. Perfect according to his obnoxious elitist opinion.

I couldn’t stand that man. He was asking way too much of me, and for no good reason. I did not see the need for such a tyrannical imposition of discipline on me and my life, my singing, my anything. I was writing songs about freedom and liberty, gigging at night in my rock and roll band, getting over to thunderous applause at the hands of my Hippie peers, why did I need discipline? I was a one-of-a-kind talent; my uninhibited, serendipitous, wild and natural style was destined to become the standard for future generations. Professors in decades to come would teach their students how to emulate ME!

Ah, but those of you with any substantial life experience can guess the rest of the story. I never “made it” as a big impact famous rock and roller. I eventually wound up playing for modest money in little disco bars, playing live juke-box cover tunes for young people to get drunk to and screw each other. But I had learned something along the way.

I learned that in order to become “free” with anything, any pursuit, any hobby, any career, any craft, any aspiration of great accomplishment, you had to go through the discipline first. I never made it as a big name musician, but I did learn how to play my instrument. To this day, I am free when I pick up a guitar. I can express emotions, elevate my consciousness, get all heaven-bound and glorified, and anyone around me will experience the same thing I am feeling. It’s a miracle I can produce, at any time, in any place, on any guitar of reasonable quality. But it took years and years of discipline to reach that plateau. Years and years of overcoming sore fingertips and blistered split open calluses, learning the scales, studying the modes, practicing the positions, emulating the recordings artists, getting so familiar with the neck I owned it as an extensions of my hand.

Towards the end of my bar-playing nightclub career, Professor Stephen Hobson came out to see my band. I had called him, letting him know we were playing in his town that week. Even so, I was surprised to see him in the audience – remember, this is a classical musician, a prim and proper professor, a patron of the fine arts, someone who goes to operas and symphony performances. For him to go to a dance club and listen to a top forty band was rather impressive.

And you know what? He was impressed with our performance. I went and sat at the table with him and his wife after the second set and he was beaming. He had wonderful accolades to bestow upon me and my ensemble, complimenting the vocals, the arrangements, our use of dynamics, our overall command of our instruments. And it was then that I told him what I had wanted to say for several years. I told him that I finally understood what discipline meant, what its value was. I knew, I told him, that undertaking the arduous discipline of any given art or craft was the necessary and ONLY way to get free within that art or craft. I told him that I finally appreciated what he had been trying to get through to my thick headstrong skull all those years ago. I knew I had been a special student to him, he had a great amount of belief in my talent, and I also knew I had been a disappointment to him, because he never “got through to me” when I was under his tutelage. I apologized to him for that shortcoming and assured him that his teaching had stuck with me all these years and had now been realized in my life and practice.

The now retired Professor Stephen Hobson’s eighty-year-old eyes filled up. He said, and I quote, “Then my life, my career, has been worth it!”

We hugged. Long and sincere. That was the last time I ever saw him. He died a couple years later. I will never forget Professor Stephen Hobson and what he taught me about applying discipline to my life in order to get beyond boundaries and break free. It applies to relationships and marriage, to any career, to any sport, to any hobby, to any life pursuit whatsoever. If you want to eventually be free, you must initially go through the discipline. It may sound like an oxymoron, “Freedom through Discipline,” it did to me as a young Hippie, but it makes perfect sense to me now.

God bless and keep you, Professor Stephen Hobson. Your legacy, your teaching, lives on.

***

The above was a post on Free Spirit Blog last summer, 2008. It was very well received, one of the most popular posts of the summer. And I thought it would be appropriate to re-post it here in keeping with your suggested topic for today, Serena. The message, the teaching it contains, is one that benefited me greatly when, as a man with no professional resume of a writer whatsoever in his mid-fifties, took up the sudden path of desiring to be a published author.

I have a natural ability to write, much like my innate musical talents. No problem going pretty far with it with relatively little effort. But in order to really break loose, to have the freedom of being able to write so well that I could be considered as one worthy of not only publication but a following, an actual readership, well … that took work. Lots of work. Major discipline. But I just applied what Professor Stephen Hobson had taught me all those many years ago to this new endeavor. Read the best. Read, read, and read, with the eyes of a student. Study the tutorials. Read the “How-to’s.” Surround yourself with professionals. Learn from them. Practice. Write everyday for hours even when there is no inspiration. Write. Work. Practice. Write. Work. Practice. Get critiques. Take the hard criticism and get over it, learn from it and improve because of it. Over and over and over and over until you get it right. Strive for the best, for perfection. Never settle for just good enough.

Even when I thought I had it down pretty good, I ran into an editor that jacked me up so tough I almost threw my hands in the air like, wow – I don’t know if I can really do this. But she believed in my basic talent enough to tough love me through three months of mentoring that taught me how to take my writing to an entire different and higher level. The next tour stop at Helen Ginger’s blog, Straight From Hel, is all about that, so I don’t want to steal any of her thunder, but for the whole story just bop over there tomorrow. Any novice author dealing for the first time with a first rate but “don’t give a wit about your feelings” editor will be heartened by reading about my struggles. If I can make it through such an experience, so can you.

Here’s the thing. Bottom line time. God given talents are great. Use them. Use them to make your living and to help others. Maybe even just for fun. A little entertainment amongst friends. But it is incumbent upon us as professionals, in any field or industry, to strive to be the best that we can be. That is if you want to. Don’t have to. Go ahead and be mediocre and limited if that’s what you want. But if you like the idea of freedom, then undertake the discipline. Do the work. Do it to be free. There is a vast limitless freedom available to those who truly seek it. The freedom to fly, to soar and break through boundaries you never imagined, never thought possible when were still languishing on – the lazy shore of the undisciplined.

About the Author:

Marvin D Wilson is a family man, married for thirty two years with three grown children and five grandchildren. He is a self-described “Maverick non-religious dogma-free spiritualist Zen Christian.” He resides in central Michigan and is a full time writer as well as a young adult mentor at his church, Shiloh’s Lighthouse Ministries, where he also is the CFO for the ministry and runs a free food pantry and free clothing distribution center.

Marvin likes to write fiction novels. He enjoys delivering spiritual messages in books that are humorous, oftentimes irreverent, always engaging and thought-provoking, sometimes sexy and even ribald, through the spinning of an entertaining tale.

Prize and Giveaway information

Marvin likes to hear from his readers! Feel free to email him at: [email protected]

His very popular blog, Free Spirit, is at http://inspiritandtruths.blogspot.com/

Marvin’s Myspace is at: http://www.myspace.com/Paize_Fiddler

Owen Fiddler’s Myspace is at: http://www.myspace.com/owenfiddler

The official Owen Fiddler book website is http://www.owenfiddler.com

***Don’t forget to check out the next stop on Owen Fiddler’s Virtual Tour–Straight from Hel ***

***Don’t forget my Pemberley by the Sea contest. It ends on Dec. 10 at Midnight EST. Sorry open only to U.S. and Canadian addressed residents.**

***And The Green Beauty Guide contest, which ends Dec. 16 at Midnight EST.***

Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

Most women will look in Cosmo or other beauty magazines for the latest cosmetic and fashion tips, but what many of these magazines don’t tell you is that the products manufactured by these companies are using chemicals and other compounds that once your skin absorbs them could cause other ailments or problems. While I don’t readily wear makeup or use cosmetics, I gladly took on a TLC Book Tour stop for Julie Gabriel’s The Green Beauty Guide. I love holistic looks at our everyday lives and books that seek to provide an alternate perspective to how we live our lives whether its from turning holiday celebrations green or learning how to reduce our own carbon footprints.

The Green Beauty Guide goes beyond the typical fad advice given by glossy magazines, providing the reader with recipes to create their own natural shampoos, facials, and other products, while at the same time providing readers with the know-how to become savvy cosmetics shoppers. Check out the Ten Commandments of Green Beauty at the end of Chapter 2.

Through a combination of science, insider information about the cosmetic industry and government regulation, and common sense, Gabriel dispels some of the myths espoused by the cosmetics industry. For instance, did you know that the skin absorbs about 60 percent of the substances applied to its surface? I didn’t, but now that I do, I plan to be more careful about what solutions I use. Think about your morning routine. . .how many cleansers, lotions, and gels do you use before you leave the house each day? Examine the ingredients of those bottles, and you’ll see exactly how many chemicals you expose your skin to every day. Given the complexity of skin and other systems throughout the body, it is no wonder that diet, exercise, and other behaviors can influence how well those systems function. Beauty or the health of your skin is tied to all of those things and more.

One of the best sections in the book discusses green washing, which will help those newly interested in the “green” movement to discern which products actually are safer for them and made from natural products, and which are merely using the presence of natural products to claim they are “green” or organic. Gabriel even provides Green Products Guide with a one-, two-, three-leaf system that categorizes how natural a product is. Other helpful sections of the book provide ways to make your own green beauty products, with a list of necessary tools, ingredients, and tips on where to purchase the ingredients. I also was surprised to find green beauty tips for babies in terms of diaper area care, massage oils, baby wipes, and bathing for babies.

Overall, this guide has a great many tips for those looking to expand the care of themselves and their environment into cosmetics and beauty care. I recommend this for those who wear makeup, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and other products, which is pretty much everyone. We all should take better care of our planet and ourselves, and what better way than to start with the beauty products we use.

Julie graciously offered to write up a guest post for today’s stop, so without further ado, I’d like to thank her for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share with us how The Green Beauty Guide was born.

Thanks a Lot for Your Rejection by Julie Gabriel

My book, THE GREEN BEAUTY GUIDE, is dedicated to my daughter. It would be nice to say that she made me not a green goddess, but this is not true. She made me a green junkie, a green paranoiac, and sometimes a green pest. Being an Aries, she possesses enormous powers of persuasion. Basically, she made me write THE GREEN BEAUTY GUIDE when she was two weeks old. Not a two-week old newborn, but a two-week young fetus.

Three years ago, I was obsessed with writing a book on green pregnancy. As I went through my “certified organic” pregnancy, which I meticulously planned for the whole twelve months – and that means three-month detox before the conception plus normal nine months of pregnancy – I could not be happier than share the joy of having the pregnancy the green way. I wanted to tell moms that it’s fun, healthy, and perfectly doable, to be pregnant and green.

But somehow, as all new authors know, there was a problem with my “platform.” I am not a doctor; neither am I a celebrity mom. I am not even a doula or a registered nurse. In England, it’s good enough to be a nanny if you want to write books about parenting, but all I had to produce to support my case was my background in journalism, my education as a holistic nutritionist, my career in fashion media, and my growing belly. All this is hardly relevant to pregnancy and parenting, agents told me. If you were manufacturing baby clothes, sure, you can write about pregnancy, but what’s your platform? I changed the proposal back and forth, I tossed one idea after another, but it just didn’t seem to work.

Then I had a lightbulb moment. It was an actual lightbulb I was changing in our bathroom in Toronto. The bathroom was jam-packed, floor to ceiling, with my green beauty finds: organic shampoos and mineral sunscreens, herbal baths and odd-smelling stretch mark oils, homemade candles and bath salts. As a diligent green mom, I opted out of any synthetic chemicals in my beauty routine. What’s my problem? I thought. I know so much about all these wonderful, fragrant, oily and shimmery things that make us pretty, happy, and hopefully healthy. I have switched from my chemical hair colors to henna, I am using organic lotions and scrubs, and I am even making my own soaps – so why not sum it all up in a handy book? Next week I spent writing a green beauty book proposal which was shaping up very quickly and so naturally. It was growing, flowing, and eventually overflowing with great information that I accumulated over years of writing about skincare, hair, and makeup. And as I see now, it was a wise move, to embrace your real background and speak about things you know quite well. Very soon, I met the agent who was excited about my green beauty project. Adina Kahn of Dystel&Goderich, and I spent the next few months polishing my materials, and very soon she found not one but two great publishing houses who were interested in my book!

The bottom line is: never assume that you are rejected because you are a bad writer. I spent the whole year pursuing a project that was completely wrong for me at that particular period in my life. I know so much more about babies and parenting today than I did then. Not “if” but when I write a book about what it takes to be a green parent, I will be able to provide my readers with a lot more valuable information than I could two years ago.

All I want to say is this: the timing for the book is always right. It may be a truism, but whatever happens, happens for a reason. There are so many people involved in the publishing process, all of them cannot be wrong at the same time. If the book doesn’t work, it’s not that the idea is bad; maybe the time is just not right. Maybe you are not ready for this book; maybe the reader is not ready for it. Sometimes all the life wants from us is a bit of flexibility.

And I will be doing a book on green pregnancy, I promised that to my daughter. But it will be a completely different kind of pregnancy book. The kind I wouldn’t even dare to think of three years ago.

Thank you Julie for sharing your green pregnancy experiences and publishing struggles with us.


Interested in winning a copy of The Green Beauty Guide?

Leave a comment expressing what you do to reduce your carbon footprint or stay green. Please include a way for me to contact you either valid blog or email address.

Deadline for the contest is Dec. 16, Midnight EST.

***Don’t forget my Pemberley by the Sea contest. It ends on Dec. 10 at Midnight EST. Sorry open only to U.S. and Canadian addressed residents.**

Also Reviewed by:

She is too Fond of Books

The Heart of Writing by Joanna Bloss, co-author of Grit for the Oyster

I would like to welcome Joanna Bloss, one of the authors of Grit for the Oyster, to Savvy Verse & Wit. Thanks to her for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about the heart of writing and the considerations writers must make when seeking publication. Without further ado, here’s her guest post.

Grit for the Oyster is the book we wish we would have had when we launched our writing careers. It is a powerful motivator for aspiring and experienced writers, offering wit, wisdom and inspiration to take that first step and persevere through the writing journey. There are many books that address the mechanics of writing and getting published, but not about the heart of writing.

It would be tough to stick with writing over the long haul if a person didn’t address some of the heart issues…handling rejection, keeping success in perspective, learning how to cope with writerly jealousy. . . these are the things we don’t always talk about, but are as important as some of the technical nuts and blots.

One of the great things about writing this book was being able to take the best of our four brains and put them together to produce a high-quality product. Suzanne drives the train–she birthed the original idea and is the glue that keeps us all together. Suzanne is a go-getter who has had enormous success in her relatively young writing career. Debora is equally successful and is our Energizer bunny. She tirelessly pursues every speaking and writing opportunity she can get her hands on and tackles every project 150%. Faith is our solid, stable foundation. As a writing instructor at Penn State she reads a lot of stuff and her expert eye catches many typos and other technical problems before the rest of us have even had the opportunity to read it through. I am the emotional care-taker and computer savviest of the bunch. I design promotional materials and produce e-newsletters for authors, so these skills have come in enormously handy as we’ve marketed Grit for the Oyster and our personal projects. I might add that it’s also helpful to have someone skilled in word processing and formatting on the team–it really streamlined the production process in the end.

Obviously not every writer has these strengths, nor do we often get the opportunity to collaborate with three other authors on a project, but it’s helpful to be aware of the qualities that make good writing excellent. One thing beginning writers can do is make a list of their strengths and weaknesses.

What things are you excellent at?

Where could you use some help?

Invest your creative energies in the things you do well, and don’t hesitate to set aside some of your budget to hire someone to help you with the areas where you are lacking. Hire an editor to proofread and make suggestions–before you submit that proposal to a publisher. Find someone with technical savvy to help you with layout and design so that your work is properly formatted. If you’re not willing to tirelessly publicize your book after it comes out, be prepared to hire a good publicist. Whether you possess them or not, these qualities are essential to get published in today’s market.

Editors and publishers have had their fill of good writers and don’t hesitate to mail out rejection slips by the ream. What they are looking for is a consummate professional who produces quality material, is willing to learn and work hard to promote their work. The best way to do this is to capitalize on your strengths and collaborate with other professionals who can fill in the gap for your weaknesses.

Thanks once again to Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Joanna Bloss, co-author of Grit for the Oyster.

Interested in Grit for the Oyster? Want to win a copy?

Feel free to leave a comment on the book review about why you want to read this book or discuss your biggest fears as a blogger and/or writer.

For a second entry, please leave a comment here on this guest post with a working email or blog profile.

Deadline is November 30; Randomizer.org will choose a winner for December 1.

J.L. Miles’ BEST-SELLER BLUES

Welcome to Savvy Verse & Wit‘s special guest post with J.L. Miles, who will share her writing career experiences. I want to thank J.L. Miles for taking time out of her busy schedule to contribute to my blog as part of her virtual tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Another thank you to Dorothy Thompson for sending along Cold Rock River, J.L. Miles’ latest book, and placing me in contact with J.L. Miles. Okay, without further ado, here is J.L. Miles.

I started my writing career when our children left home and my husband insisted they weren’t coming back unless they needed money. Previously, I wanted to be a movie star, but when the mirror confirmed that my theatrical-clock had not only stopped ticking, it was at the cemetery, I thought writing might be a better choice. While at the dentist waiting on a root canal—never make career decisions while waiting on a man with a knitting needle who intends to stab you in the mouth with it—I picked up a tattered paperback entitled The Writer’s Little Instruction Book.

Spooky! I was merely contemplating the idea of becoming a N.Y. Times bestselling author and the perfect manual appeared. Surely God, his angels, and all the saints were trying to tell me something, right? I didn’t consider that maybe the devil and his deceivers were having a good laugh. The book listed 365 (give or take) secrets for writing and getting published. Perfect! It was an omen. In 365 days I’d be on the bestsellers list. I simply needed to master one little ol’ secret a day. The first one I came across was the key to a successful story.

It was threefold:

1. Get your protagonist up a tree.

2. Put a tiger under the tree.

3. Get your protagonist out of the tree.

Elementary! I was on my way and about to discover secret #2, when the receptionist called my name. It was time for my root canal. Piece of cake—I was on a mission to greatness. Not even that flashing knitting needle held high in Dr.I-Forget-his-name’s hand would stop me now. Four injections (the first three didn’t take), and two hours later I drove home not the least bit interested in the N. Y. Times, its bestsellers list, or who was on it.

Tomorrow, I’d begin the great American novel, the minute my feet hit the floor, the instant my brain met the coffee. However—don’t you hate that word?—I forgot about one character defect I’ve struggled with most of my life: I’m a world class procrastinator. If they ever give out Pulitzer’s on the subject, I’ll be a major contender. Not to say I don’t get things done. I do. But I tend to do them one minute before time’s up.

Procrastination is not a good attribute for an author. All the best books on writing (there are slews of good ones; here are my favorites: Anne Lamott, Elizabeth Berg, Julie Cameron, Stephen King—and Walter Mosely’s brand new contribution), state clearly that writers are to place themselves before the computer (or notepad, or typewriter) at precisely the same time each day for precisely the same amount of pre-determined hours each day (weekends and holiday included), in order to not only hone one’s craft, but to complete the manuscript at hand. Ahhh. . .that might be a problem.

The moment I get out of bed, I tend to explore the world around me and assess the damages, making a list as I go. Stupid little things like, I forgot to do the laundry, again and there’s no clean underwear, the milk’s sour, there’s nothing to eat but cat food, the garbage hasn’t been dragged to the curb in a month, and the refrigerator filter hasn’t been changed since we invaded Iraq. The list grows as I walk from room to room. Are those fur balls under the dining room table really having grandchildren? Can’t be, last week they were barely parents. I climb under to investigate. I meander from room to room, procrastination taking over the morning. I get out the phone book. Surely there’s an organization that can assist me. There has to be. I’m on the verge of being a bestselling author! I need recovery.

The yellow page lists Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Cheaters Anonymous, Kleptomaniacs Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous. There are groups for Obsessive Compulsion Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Bi-Polar Disorder, but absolutely no procrastinators support group. There must be an organization meeting somewhere. Actually a helpline would be my choice. A number I could call the moment I find no underwear I’m willing to wear or encounter a chore I’m tempted to do—featuring a commanding voice like my mothers that will instruct me to immediately march over to my computer and bolt myself to the chair for a minimum of three hours, and call her in the morning.

I look through the entire collection of yellow pages I’ve amassed, as well as the local newspaper’s classified ads and find nothing to assist me. Obviously, I’m one of a mere handful of major procrastinators in existence. There are simply not enough of us to require a network of supporters. Yikes! I’m on my own. I search the room for answers and spot my computer. It’s waiting, perfectly able to do my bidding. And I only have 364 more secrets to master. Glory be—I’m ready to discover them!

I dash to the computer, sit down triumphantly, and put my hands on the keys. At last! I’m ready to write the great American novel. However—the phone rings. It’s my mother. She’s waiting on me. “Did you forget you need to take me to the dentist?” Ahhh. . .yeh, I did, but I don’t tell her. “I’m on my way!” I say instead. I get up from my computer and grab my car keys.

Tomorrow, I’d begin the great American novel, the minute my feet hit the floor, the instant my brain met the coffee.

About the Author:

J. L. (Jackie Lee) Miles is the author of Cold Rock River, the critically acclaimed Roseflower Creek, and the soon to be released Dwayne Series. Divorcing Dwayne debuts April 2008. Dear Dwayne & Dating Dwayne to follow.

Write to Jackie at [email protected]

Visit the website at http://www.jlmiles.com

***Don’t Forget Today is the last day to enter to win a copy of Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach, leave a comment here and here and you’ll get 2 entries.


Karen White and the Writing and Publishing Process

I want to thank Karen White for joining us today at Savvy Verse & Wit! Her novel The House on Tradd Street debuted on Nov. 4, read my review. Without further ado, Karen will discuss her writing and publishing process.

I’ve done it! I’ve just completed not only my second novel in a single calendar year, but I’ve also worked through the agony of simultaneously promoting two novels published within the same time span. Am I Superwoman or Super-insane? Sitting here still in my pajamas at 11:47 am, I’m not sure I really know the answer.

I’d like to say that my decision to double my output was a calmly calculated one intended to increase sales and bring in more readers. But then I’d be lying. The fact is, I was happily writing a single southern women’s fiction novel for my publisher each year. I was relatively successful with growing sales and a solid reader base who would loyally buy each book I published. My royalty checks were respectable although certainly not big enough for my husband to chuck in his desk job and spend his life out on the golf course (which is what I might have promised him once upon a time when I stopped cooking so that I could devote more time to writing).

What happened was really an accident. I came up with a really cool ghost story/mystery/women’s fiction novel idea. It was different enough from my earlier books that they couldn’t be published by the same imprint, but it was still enough of a Karen White book for me to keep my author’s name on the front cover. But my publisher still wanted one of my straight southern women’s fiction books out once a year. The only way my new story idea could find a home would be if I squeezed those books in between my other books. That would mean two books (averaging over 100,000 words each) a year.

Sure! I said, recalling Steve Martin’s words when offered The Cruel Shoes. How hard could it be? Yes, I’m the mother of two teenagers and a small dog and I have a husband who travels incessantly. But my daughter is driving this year (and saving me 7 hours a week—yes, I calculated it) and I figured that those extra 7 hours per week would be exactly what I needed to squeeze in that extra book per year. Or so I thought.

It turns out that just because I have seven extra hours doesn’t mean that I want to squeeze in more work time. Writing is exhausting stuff. It hurts my brain. It really isn’t physically possible for me to sit in front of my computer for long hours at a time writing creatively. I need time off to ‘fill the well’ so to speak. You know, reading, playing piano, goofing off with my kids and dog. Scrapbooking. That sort of thing. It’s as essential to writing as sitting down at a desk and typing—just harder to calculate its worth since I can’t measure it in word count.

Basically what I’ve ended up doing is not so much increasing the amount of time I spend writing and doing writing-related stuff (such as writing blogs like this), but decreasing the amount of time I have to well, live my life.

The result? I’m exhausted—both mentally and physically. My daughter is starting her college search and my son has started high school which means they’re both requiring more one-on-one attention from me. My husband has been traveling more than ever making me a single parent in charge of everything from grocery shopping, to bill paying, to filling out those incessant forms kids always seem to require for school, sports and camps. When we have ants invading our kitchen or a water spot on the dining room wall, it is up to me to call the appropriate people and be here at the scheduled time. On top of all of this, I need to write two novels AND promote them.

But is it all bad news? Hardly! Sales of my backlist and pre-orders for my November book (The House on Tradd Street) have increased by leaps and bounds. As a reader, when I discover a new author, I want to buy everything he/she’s written. Apparently, my readers (old and new) think the same way. I’ve really broadened my exposure to a whole new reading audience. The House on Tradd Street is a bit of a departure for me—I add ghosts to my known mix of southern women’s fiction/romance/mystery. I think that my current readers will love this book, and I know that new readers who like it will enjoy my backlist. And, to add to the excitement, The House in Tradd Street is the beginning of a series—the second book, The Girl on Legare Street, will be out in November 2009.

The momentum created by a quick succession of books is evidenced by an increase of sales in my backlist as well pre-orders of my next book. Another reason for this is an increase in paid promotion and a new publicist—made affordable by two advances and two royalties checks in one year.

The best part is that I’ve learned that I can write fast; that the way I was writing before (a couple of hours in the morning and then I was done) was completely self-indulgent. I’m a more efficient writer now, and a better writer. When I don’t linger too long over a book, I don’t find myself getting bored with the characters or the plot, or fiddling with things that don’t need fixing. It’s all new and fresh.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. The plusses so far outweigh the negatives. It’s pushed my career to the next level in a shorter amount of time than my former path of one novel a year would have. Will I continue to do this? Absolutely not. Being exhausted does not make a fun mom/wife/friend to be around. I value my family and my friends too much to do this to them for much longer.

I just signed a new two-book contract and made sure that I had nine months between novels. Not as long as a year, but much longer than six months to write a book. It’s my light at the end of the tunnel when I’ll be able to breathe a little slower. And (hopefully!) watch my sales continue grow in response to my efforts.

Thanks again, Karen, for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts with us.

Want to win a copy of The House on Tradd Street by Karen White?

1. Please leave a comment on my review post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on this guest post for a second entry.

Deadline: November 14 at Midnight EST. The contest is open to international entrants.

Thanks again to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Karen White, author of The House on Tradd Street. For a list of other Virtual appearances for Karen, go here.

Don’t forget that Karen will have a sequel, The Girl on Legare Street, out in November 2009.

Jane Odiwe & Lydia Bennet’s Take on Halloween Fun



Hello everyone,

I’d like to thank Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit very much for asking me as a guest on her blog. I’m going to tell you about how I developed Lydia’s character in Lydia Bennet’s Story and…

“La! How dull would that be?”

Excuse me, Lydia…as I was saying…

“No one wants to hear what you have to say, Jane, they’d much rather hear about the night of mischief and fun that Kitty and I had on Hallowe’en.”

I’ve been asked to talk about my book…

“Dearest Jane, I think I hear the doorbell … oh good, that got rid of her, she’s gone! Halloo! It’s Lydia Bennet from Longbourn here with a tale for all you young ladies out there.”

“I’ll bet you’ll see your true love by midnight,” said our maid Mary, and she looked so mysterious and meaningful that we took her at her word and arrived at the kitchen door as late as we dared. It was very quiet and I was all for bursting in at the door but Kitty was already nervous on account of being told to come without candle or lantern. At her timid knock, the door was suddenly thrown back and the vision that greeted us was so terrifying that Kitty let out the most bloodcurdling scream you have ever heard. When we realised it was Mary with a hollowed turnip candle held under her chin we laughed so hard, I thought I might be ill.

The kitchen was very dark but for the glow of turnip candles on every surface illuminating several strings of apples suspended from the ceiling. A large bowl of water with more apples floating atop was set before a looking glass, which strangely resembled the one from my bedchamber.

“We’ll have snap apple and bobbing for apples later but first there is a tradition that all young ladies must perform. You must stand before the glass, quite alone in the dark, and a vision of the man you are to marry will appear within, before the bewitching hour,” said Mary.

“I will not,” cried Kitty, “No fear, I’m not standing here in this horrid, dark place for anything, even if Prince George himself was to appear.”

“Lord!” said I, “There’s nothing to it, Kitty, but I warn you, if I see Prince George, I’ll slit my throat. Ugh, can you think of anything more disagreeable than marrying that oaf!”

I must admit I felt a slight apprehension when they’d extinguished every candle before leaving me, and the hairs on my arms and legs prickled up at the unfamiliar sounds in the cold kitchen. There was a scuffle in the corner and the thought of a mouse nearly had me running for the door.

I stood before the glass and soon became quite engrossed with my own reflection which it has to be said looked most becoming by the soft bars of moonlight creeping through the window.

It was then that I thought I heard breathing. I looked behind me but there was no one there. I turned back to the glass and caught sight of a glimmering light in the background, so I spun round again only to find it had disappeared. I wheeled back to the glass once more determined to catch sight of whatever apparition was about to materialize when I got the fright of my life. A phantom in white, and not at all my impression of a handsome beau was leering at me in the dark, with hideous, grinning teeth. I screamed and fainted into the arms of the horrible ghoul!

The door burst open and there, holding onto their sides, falling upon themselves with laughter, were Kitty and Mary. My assailant had me blindfolded before I could protest further and in a soft voice not in the least unbecoming, begged for a kiss from his future wife. What else could a girl do in the dark, I ask you, other than oblige? In any case, I had guessed from his delicious smell that it was Mr Edwards, who it is well known has something of a passion for me and, indeed, is quite the best-looking young man of my acquaintance!

Of course, I protested loudly through the whole sordid exhibition and it was only when we went to bed that I admitted to Kitty, that although I do not think I found my husband on All Hallows Eve, I certainly enjoyed my adventure!

As an after thought, I must just add that, whatever you may have read about Jane Odiwe’s influence over me and the development of my character in her ‘novel’, Lydia Bennet’s Story, she had nothing whatsoever to do with it – I am entirely my own wonderful person – perfection can never be imitated, improved or further developed!

Lydia Bennet

***Want to win a copy of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe? I have one copy for one U.S./Canada winner (sorry no P.O. boxes) and one copy for an international winner.

Here’s what you do: (Remember to leave me an email address or blog link so I can contact you!)

1. Leave a comment on this post, telling me what your favorite Jane Austen novel is or what novel you would like to read (if heaven forbid, you haven’t read Jane Austen yet!) for one entry.

2. Leave a comment on my Lydia Bennet’s Story review post, here, for a second entry.

3. For a third entry, spread the word about this contest on your blog and leave me the link here or if you don’t have a blog, email 5 friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

Deadline is November 7 at Midnight EST.

Other Contests from Savvy Verse & Wit: (Deadlines are Nov. 5)

1. Win a copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

2. Win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

Douglas Abrams, Writing, & Don Juan


It is my pleasure to introduce my guest post and short interview with Douglas Abrams, the author of The Lost Diary of Don Juan, and he will talk about what inspired him to write the novel, what his daily writing routine consists of, and what he’s working on now. If you missed my review of The Lost Diary of Don Juan, go here.

Doug is currently making his rounds of the blogosphere on a virtual book tour, and you have probably already seen him on Paperback Writer and Review Your Book. He has tour dates selected for Booking Mama, Novel Menagerie, and Literarily, among others. Check out the other dates, here.

Without further ado, here’s Douglas Abrams:

One night I went to bed asking myself a question that I believe every married man or woman asks eventually: how could I stay happily and passionately married for the rest of my life?

The next morning I awoke as if I had been shaken. It was then that I first thought of Don Juan, the universal symbol of passion. I wondered what if he had kept a diary. What secrets would it contain? What could we learn from him about the nature of passion? And ultimately, what might cause the world’s greatest seducer to forsake all women for one woman? I left my wife’s warm sleeping body, walked past our three sleeping children, and sat down at the dining room table. It was as if a voice was whispering the story in my ear.

This is how I decided to write an historical diary exploring Don Juan’s life, his passionate relationships, and his eventual fall into the madness of love. I spent over four years reconstructing the world of 16th century Sevilla, including several trips to Seville itself. The book, which began as an inquiry into the nature of love and lust, took on a life of its own and led me on thrilling adventure into the rich and dangerous world of Golden Age Spain.

So what, you may ask, is the secret to lasting passion and devotion? In the novel, Don Juan finds his answer. I hope that within its pages you will find yours.

For a quick look at the book, check out his sample chapters.

Here’s my brief interview with Doug Abrams about his writing process.

Do you have a set writing routing? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I’m a whenever-I-can-steal-the-time writer, which means I write in the morning and at night, whenever I’m not juggling my three children, my other work as a literary agent, or the responsibilities and joys of marriage. What has really been a lifesaver is going away periodically on long writing retreats. The challenge with novels is that you are working with a very large canvas, sort of like an enormous Delacroix hanging in the Louvre, so it is essential for me to step out of daily routines to immerse myself in the fictional world.

Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

Yes, I am currently finishing the second novel in my two-book contract. Although quite different, all of my novels will attempt to tell dramatic stories that also convey some of the ancient insights about how we can live on this planet with greater joy and wisdom. My next novel is a contemporary diary, an ecological thriller, and a mythic fiction about a love that is even more powerful than passionate love. I began with the question: can we survive as a species, and if so, how?

I want to thank Doug for taking time out of his busy schedule to write a guest post and answer a few questions about his writing process. I also would like to thank Zoe and Michelle for their help as well. If you haven’t read his book, you should grab a copy from a local bookstore, an online bookstore, or your local library.

Writing and Writing Spaces, Part 2

Day 5 of Writing in Metaphor and Imagery for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Book Blogger Appreciation Week has introduced me to a number of poets and other writers who also blog. I wanted to get their take on their writing processes as well. Anna at Diary of an Eccentric and I opted to introduce you to two other book bloggers and writers and their writing processes, you can find Anna’s post with Rebekah of Simply Romance Reviews and Ready Set Read Reviews here.

I asked April of Cafe of Dreams to share her writing process with me and the rest of the blogging community.

April finds that writing poems is an expressive outlet, and when ideas come into her mind she jots them down no matter where she is. She branches out from those initial compositions. Sometimes she is writing abstractly because words can form different ideas in the readers’ minds. On the other hand, when she is emotional, she writes words to express what she is feeling whether it is related to a person or incident in her life. She says, “After writing the initial prose, I will often go back and repeatedly change wording until I am completely satisfied with the end result.” I can completely relate to this way of writing. I often write down a few stanzas right off the bat and then expound upon those images and ideas until the poem takes on a life of its own. Once I have a complete poem, I tend to reword it and play with line lengths and word order until I am satisfied that the end result is what I want it to be.

April is as fascinated with people and people watching as I am. She says, “I will often try and create a story that I feel may be going on within their lives. It is just the most amazing thing knowing that there are millions upon millions of people in the world, and they all have a truly unique things or thoughts going on. It is always fun for me to build on those ideas or concepts.”

What I found most interesting about her writing process is that she takes these storylines that she creates and boils them down to one or two pages in poetry form. She also uses dialogue and visuals to tell a complete story to her reader. Her goal is to take these short stories and create a novel length story.

While April does not often rhyme in her poetry, she does attempt to rhyme and try out different combinations of meter and rhyme. She is fascinated by the endless forms of poetry available to writers. However, she does wish that poetry was more of an outlet in today’s society. She notes, “It seems as though poetry is set back in the way of literary importance. Though it just may be that I haven’t found or been exposed to the right area. In any case, personal or professional, poetry of all forms is a wonderful creative outlet.”

More about Cafe of Dreams:

Cafe of Dreams, is my little corner of the world where I can be creative and just have fun. Most of what I cover on Cafe is books and reviews of them. I have started doing book tours and love them! I love to interview authors and have met so many great blogger friends. To sum up, Cafe of Dreams is a place where all your dreams are available on the menu. I cover many genres of books through reviews, write a bit about life and my thoughts and just want a very open and friendly place to express myself.

A poem from April at Cafe of Dreams:

A True Treasure
A kind and gentle spirit
So giving of love, laughter and gentleness
A powerful man – big in stature
larger in compassion
You gave to the world so much of yourself
You gave to your family everything

I will forever remember your wonderful smile, your joking manner
Advice and ponderings, always plentiful, will be so very missed
Visions of holding your grandchildren, treasuring each one dearly,
will forever remain in my heart
Knowing that future grandchildren will miss meeting and knowing
one of the most wonderful men in the world
tugs at my heart
Life will not be the same without you

Hearts break, as tears stream
You were and will forever be, so much to so many
As you look down upon us from your place in heaven,
I know that you will forever be in our hearts
You are a wonderful man, someone so very loved and so very treasured
You are husband, dad, grandpa, brother and son
You are one of life’s true miracles – a beautiful soul both inside and out

As you leave this earth,
you leave us all with one last lesson –
hold each precious moment dear, knowing that life is much too fragile
too delicate to waste a single second
Hold one another close
Never forgetting to say the most important words one can –
“I love you”

~~ In loving memory of my Father-In-Law
Copyright April at Cafe of Dreams

Another friendly reminder about these contests:

1. Diary of an Eccentric is holding a contest for The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and The Choice by Nicholas Sparks Deadline is Sept. 30

2. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding a contest for Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg as the first contest for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Deadline is Sept. 19

3. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding another contest for “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti as part of BBAW; Deadline is Sept. 19

4. Bookish Ruth’s contest for The Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Phillip Pullman

5. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a 1-year subscription to Poetry magazine. Deadline is Sept. 19

6. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel; Deadline is Sept. 19

7. Savvy Verse & Wit and Diary of an Eccentric’s contest for a copy of Writer’s Digest and Writing the Wave; Deadline Sept. 21 at Midnight EST.

Please also double-check the growing list of giveaways at My Friend Amy’s blog.

Writing and Writing Spaces, Part 1

Day 5 of Writing in Metaphor and Imagery for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) has me thinking about the writing process, and how different writers respond to their muses or at least begin to write their book reviews. Whether you are a book reviewing blogger, a poet, a novelist, a short-story writer, or any other type of writer, the writing process is often a struggle within yourself, a struggle to find time enough to write, and a journey unto itself. Anna of Diary of an Eccentric and I have known each other for over a decade, and it’s hard to believe we have known each other that long. We both hit it off as freshman college roommates when we both learned that we were writers and taking a correspondence course through the mail on writing children’s books. We’ve been close friends—our husbands even joke that we act more like sisters—co-workers, classmates, and partners in a variety of literary projects.

She and I started talking about our writing processes, and I figured what a great way to start up a dialogue among our book blogging friends as part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. She and I have had very different processes, and I remember the days when my need for loud music (either musicals like the Phantom of the Opera or heavy metal) while I wrote drove her crazy.

Hey Anna, aka Diary of an Eccentric, I’ve been wondering how you prepare mentally for writing? Does ambient noise bother or inspire you? And does your mood influence what you write?

ANNA: I don’t do much mental preparation for writing blog posts and book reviews. I have a schedule in my head (because I lose all the darn sticky notes), so I already have an idea what to write. But when it comes to my novel and short stories, etc., I try to block out the real-life things that affect my mood (screaming kid, bad day at work, bills) and try to channel my characters. There are times when I don’t have to do much preparation at all, and my pen takes me on some wonderful adventures that I had no idea were inside my head. I can’t write with lots of background noise. I have to wait until my daughter is in bed or not in the mood to bother me, and I can’t watch television at the same time. (It’s so hard to go a day without watching Hogan’s Heroes!) But I have a play list on my iPod where I stick songs that fit the mood of my novel, listening to them helps the words flow. Of course my mood affects my writing! I wrote some of my best poems when I was depressed. Then I had to find my husband and become a mom, which put me in a good mood most of the time, and the poetry muse is either hiding in disgust or gone for good. I don’t mind so much about the loss of my poetry; I’m glad I have a happy home life!

SERENA: You haven’t given up on writing sticky notes because I’ve seen all of those notes all over your desk and books. I remember in college you used to hate studying in the same room with me because I had to have the radio on loudly. I assume that would still drive you crazy.

So would you say that you are like Stephenie Meyer in the sense that you have a play list for particular projects or just a particular play list for creative writing in general?

I think the poetry muse is just pissed you never had any of her children published! Just Kidding.

ANNA: Yeah, I’ll admit I still use the sticky notes, but once I write them, I don’t really look at them again. (What’s the point of writing them, you might ask. I ask myself that, too.)

I think you’re forgetting that it was my stereo, so it was on my side of the room. Actually right next to my desk, so when you’d grab the remote and turn the music up, I was deaf for three days afterward!

As for the play list, I set it up for my novel. Since I’ve been working on it for awhile (I’m going to tell you to shut up before you say anything because I know what you’re going to say!), it’s the only play list I’ve used. If I ever finish this one and start another, I’ll let you know whether I need a new play list.

I didn’t mean to upset the muse…I just never felt the urge to publish my poetry. The one poem I read at the Sigma Tau Delta convention in St. Louis (how many years ago was this??)…I just don’t know if I can go through the rejections with that one. The others are far, far from being ready for publication. You’ll have to publish them for me when I’m gone.

SERENA: Well, you know that I will publish them when you are gone, which I hope is not for a very, very, very (ok you get the picture) long time.

ANNA: As long as the muse doesn’t have a murderous streak, I should be okay!
Anyway…tell me about your mental preparation? Do you need loud music for creative writing, or was it just a way to keep yourself awake while reading that boring political science stuff in college? Do your moods affect your writing?

SERENA: I hope muses don’t have murderous streaks because I could be in trouble; I haven’t had anything published in a couple of years.

In college, I admit that the radio was my way of staying awake while reading that boring poli-sci stuff I already learned in honors history in high school…we all know what happened if I wasn’t listening to music, I was asleep and never made it to my 8AM class. Thank goodness, they invented iPods.

Ok, preparing my mental space first requires the husband to either be asleep or out of the house! When I sit down to write, I must have some kind of ambient distraction. Whether that is music or the television will depend on my mood. I tend to listen to a particular group or genre of songs for the novel and poetry it can be any music. As for the short stories, I tend to work on those in silence or with the television going, which I think is akin to the fact that I find short story writing harder. As you can tell, I am long-winded!

Moods, hmmm, I have a wide variety of those. I used to write poetry only when depressed, but now I tend to be most poetic when I’m contemplative. (is that a word? English grammar and spelling don’t fail me now!) Whether there is something on the television, in the real world, or just something I come across and I have time to the think about it (who has much of that these days) I will jot down a few lines. I also have been inspired by books I’m reading to write a couple lines or stanzas of a poem, which you can find out more about in Jill’s interview of me for BBAW. Anyway, to make the story short, I think poetry is impacted by my mood. Where the novels and short stories come from I have no idea, although there was that one that came from a dream!

ANNA: I think it’s cool that stories come to you in dreams! (Now I’ll assume the nagging friend role…have you worked on that story lately, young lady??) I also remember you jolting awake, climbing down from the loft bed, and rummaging around on your desk to jot down poetry ideas in the middle of the night. That darn banker’s lamp was too bright for my sensitive eyes! Do you still do that?

SERENA: I actually find that poetry comes more now when I am awake on the bus, subway, walking down the street, or just observing something on television or reading a book, among other things. THAT short story is in hibernation until I have fresh eyes to look at it again. I’m following Stephen King’s advice from On Writing.

And it was only that one story that came in a dream!

ANNA: Do you have any other writing book recommendations?
Personally I like The Novelist Boot Camp by Todd Stone.

SERENA: I love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont and the 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley. I still have not read The Novelist Boot Camp; it may be the army green color of the book that makes me nervous.

So once you are prepared mentally to write, where do you physically plunk yourself down and get to work?


ANNA: Sometimes I write blog posts on the train, but never my novel or stories. I don’t like people looking over my shoulder. At home, I’ll sit on the couch with a notebook and my lapdesk, or if the husband insists on having the TV on, I’ll go upstairs and lay on the bed to write. I’ve always preferred a notebook/journal to writing at the computer. I sit at a computer 8 hours a day for work, and I don’t find those computer chairs comfortable enough to allow a free flow of creativity. I used to love writing outside. When we were at Quinnipiac College (now University, but it will always be QC to us!), there was the view of Sleeping Giant, which was beautiful when the leaves started changing colors. And hiking up to the overlook and writing there was peaceful.

SERENA: So that’s your most unusual writing place, on top of the Sleeping Giant overlook? No computer writing for you? In terms of writing with a notebook and pen, would that change if you had a laptop and not a desktop computer?

ANNA: I don’t know if it would change if I had a laptop. I think I’d be a lot more comfortable when I’m typing, but I really like the way the pen flows on the paper. I guess I’m weird like that.

How about you? Where do you write? What’s your most unusual writing place?

SERENA: Well, you do also like the smell the pages of your books, especially new ones. That is a bit weird.

Poems are generally written in a small notebook or journal that I carry everywhere–on the subway, the bus, in the car, walking–it’s always on my person. I only use those roller ball pens, usually black, but I don’t discriminate if I have a different color handy. I really like the electric blue pens, speaking of how ink flows onto a page. However, there are those occasions that I write poems on the laptop, which can be anywhere from on the desk/kitchen table to the couch, the comfy leather chair my husband saved from the trash man, or the porch. Short stories are written in a variety of college-ruled notebooks, again with those roller ball pens I love so much. They only get typed up when I am ready to say it is finished, and that’s when the story or novel undergoes its first editing process, as I am transcribing my written words from paper to electronic document.

The most unusual writing space for me is probably at the camera shop I used to work at. While developing and printing photos, I often had my notebook/journal out and I jotted down poems or short story ideas. Yes, I was writing away while wearing white photo developing gloves and a lab coat. I must have looked ridiculous.

ANNA: So I’m weird, and you’re ridiculous! We make quite a pair!

Those roller ball pens ROCK, and that’s what I was saying about the ink flowing on the page. I’m like you in that I’ll type after I’ve written and edited things in my notebook.

How about book reviews? You write them at the computer?

I tend to write those in my notebook first…I don’t like the pressure of the glaring white screen (or the uncomfortable computer chair, which you already know about so I’ll stop mentioning it).

SERENA: Book reviews are written on the computer at the computer desk/kitchen table. I don’t write those out beforehand, but then I generally write the book reviews while the book is fresh in my mind. I tend not to wait too long to review what I’ve been reading because I’m likely to forget the details.

And Now for the Contest! To enter to win a subscription to Writer’s Digest or a copy of Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres offered by Anna to another lucky winner!: Deadline Sept. 21 at Midnight EST

1. Answer one or all of these questions in the comments for one entry. If you comment here with the answers to these questions and on Diary of an Eccentric’s post, you get two entries, one for each comment.
2. Answer these questions in your own blog for 2 entries, and link back to this post and the one at Diary of an Eccentric; Please leave a link to your blog post.
3. Tell me about your ideal writing space on either my post or Anna’s post in the comments for an additional entry. No double entries for this one.

Another friendly reminder about these contests:

1. Diary of an Eccentric is holding a contest for The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and The Choice by Nicholas Sparks Deadline is Sept. 30

2. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding a contest for Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg as the first contest for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Deadline is Sept. 19

3. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding another contest for “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti as part of BBAW; Deadline is Sept. 19

4. Bookish Ruth’s contest for The Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Phillip Pullman

5. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a 1-year subscription to Poetry magazine. Deadline is Sept. 19

6. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel; Deadline is Sept. 19

Please also double-check the growing list of giveaways at My Friend Amy’s blog.