Guest Post: Hazel Statham, Author of Lizzie’s Rake

I would like to welcome Hazel Statham, author of Lizzie’s Rake, to Savvy Verse & Wit. She’s taken the time out of her busy schedule to share with us some tidbits about her mischievous dog, Mollie, and her writing space. . .

My Writing Space – Or Rather, Lack of

I wish, oh how I wish I had a workspace all of my own where I could spread my work out and no one would complain! It wouldn’t have to be a large room, I would be quite content with a very modest space – just large enough for a desk, a chair and a bookcase, but most importantly, with a door. Somewhere where I could just hide away from everyone and immerse myself in my own little historical world. There would be peace and quiet and when I was hidden away, everyone would know I wanted to be alone.

Of course, the dogs could come into my inner sanctum, they’re no trouble, except Mollie who, at just 12 months old, is still a little monkey – but we are imagining the ideal here. Sadly, the reality is not quite the same.

Due to the lack of an office, my computer is set up on a desk in a corner of the dining room – not very practical, I know, but as there’s no other space available, it has to be. I write when my husband is at work and the house is quiet. I can’t write when there’s noise around me as it disturbs my train of thought. Sometimes I can be at the computer from morning to night, sometimes for just a few short hours. Wherever I am, so are the dogs. Lucy is content to just lie by my chair but Mollie, more often than not, is always into some mischief or other. It’s not always easy typing with a Labrador trying to get on your knee.

There’s also a computer set up in the opposite corner and when my seven-year-old grandson comes to stay with me during the school holidays, he’s usually on it. He informs me that he’s writing a book about Mr. Bean and Star Wars. Rather a strange combination, I know, but one that seems to work for him.

Mollie getting into mischief!

About Lizzie’s Rake (From Hazel’s Website):

Can a rake reform his ways and truly love? Lizzie’s head tells her one thing, her heart another.

Infamous rake and Corinthian, Maxim Beaufort, Earl of St. Ive, finding himself in possession of a property in Yorkshire, is unprepared for the changes it will bring into his life. Irresistibly drawn to Elizabeth Granger, the former owner’s daughter, he attempts to help the family, finding himself filling the role of benefactor. When the house is razed to the ground, he arranges for

temporary accommodation for Elizabeth and her siblings on his estate.

When Elizabeth rejects his proposal of marriage, he is nonetheless determined to win her over. However, events and his reputation conspire to thwart his efforts and his course is one fraught with dangers.

Trust does not come easily and determined to protect her heart, Elizabeth struggles to resist her own longings. At times, their difficulties appear insurmountable but the earl is widely known as ‘The Indomitable’ and the name was not lightly earned.

Don’t forget my current giveaways:

2-year Blogiversary, here and here.

Guest Post: Renee Hand, Author of The Crypto Capers

I’d like to welcome Renee Hand, author of The Crypto-Capers, to Savvy Verse & Wit to talk about her writing process.

Her latest book The Case of the Missing Sock, for ages 9-12, is a story of two siblings, Max and Mia Holmes, and their good friend Morris and their flamboyant Granny Holmes as they unravel crimes by solving cryptograms left by criminals. Mia is the expert puzzle solver, and Max has great deduction and reasoning skills. Morris happens to be a computer genius, and granny is the “muscle” of the group. In this caper, the group heads to Florida and are hired by Mr. Delacomb, and readers have a chance to help these detectives solve the case through cryptograms and puzzles.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“FIVE MINUTES! JUST FIVE MORE MINUTES,” said Max Holmes quietly as he surveyed the dark room in front of him.

This should be the last place to reach, the highest test of his skills. He switched off his flashlight. He faced a rugged stone wall. From somewhere far above him, a crack let in a single, narrow beam of sunshine. It hit about the middle of the wall, barely lighting up a recess, an indention shaped into a rectangle, slightly taller than wide. A box could fit in there, Max thought, and he grew just a little nervous.

“Did I come here for nothing?” he asked in frustration as he glanced more intently at the wall. “Did I pick the wrong way?” For just a moment, he reviewed his route to this stone box of a room. No, he had made each choice carefully. “This has to be the right place. It has to be here!”

Without further ado, here is Renee and her writing process:

My writing process is interesting. I really just let my ideas come to me. I have a favorite tool that I use in my writing. I have what I call “an idea wall.” Whenever I get an idea I write it down and stick in on my wall for future consideration, as well as to remind me of things that I want to make sure I incorporate into my stories. In writing a series, there is so much that I have to remember, so I use my idea wall to help me remember these things. I also use it to help me when I get stuck on an idea. There are times when I am not sure where to go with an idea so I write it on my idea wall and refer back to it throughout the day as I am doing something else. This is a tremendous help to me and my idea wall has not failed me yet. I use it for many things in my writing.

My stories usually develop on the fly, which works great for me and my creativity. I write at my own pace the way that I want to write. If I felt that I was being pressured to write a certain way or at a specific time every day, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. I make writing as fun and enjoyable as possible because I love to do it.

When developing my stories, I usually know what I want to have happen; all I have to do is find a great way to get there. I do a lot of revision and editing but when I begin a story I first just concentrate on getting my ideas down on paper. I don’t beat myself up if everything is not perfect. I just get my ideas down all the way to the end of the story. Once I have a base, which I must have, then I will go back and fine tune and develop the story better. I will do lots of research along the way to add more detail and description, or I will take a vacation somewhere to help aid in the experience and relate it in my story. What I start with usually always changes and becomes ten times better by the time I finish it. I will lay out certain ideas in a specific order at times, depending on the scene in my story and where I want it to go or what I need to have happen. So, certain ideas in my story are planned out to be in a certain way, but after that I let my creativity take me where I need to go.

By the time I am finished with my story it is in the best shape I can possibly make it. I am finding that with each story I write, I become a better writer. I am always improving and I can see it with each book that gets published. I have 4 to my credit, two of which have won awards.

Thanks, Renee for stopping by Savvy Verse & Wit and taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your writing process with us.

Check out Renee’s site, here. And if you’re interested in these capers for your kids, check out The Case of the Missing Sock, here, and The Case of Red Rock Canyon, here.

About the Author:

Since my first novel has been published I have done over 70 events. I have been on radio, TV, and have been in over 40 newspapers. I have experience talking in classrooms about writing. I have presented at various libraries, have
done several booksignings and many other venues with more going on in the future.

My family has encouraged my talents and creativity and I couldn’t have gotten this far without their support and love. Having Magic Hearts published really was a dream come true and I am thankful to God for all of the blessings in my life.

I have also received an award for Magic Hearts for Best 2006 Fantasy Romance. I am thrilled. My second novel Seduction of the Lonely Heart has won a National Literary Award for Best Romance of 2007. I am thankful for these two awards.

I have also ventured in writing other genres. I have a new children’s detective series that will be coming out. The first book of the series, The Crypto-Capers in the Case of the Missing Sock, is currently released. This story is filled with adventure and heart. With relateable characters and you, as the reader, are apart of the story, helping the detectives solve the case. Book 2 The Case of Red Rock Canyon, is also currently available. Book 3 will be out in the fall.

Don’t forget my current giveaways:

2-year Blogiversary, here and here.

Guest Post: Emily St. John Mandel, Author of Last Night in Montreal

Emily St. John Mandel, author of Last Night in Montreal, was kind enough to take time out of her schedule to share with us her writing space. She even included some great shots from her space for this tour.

Without further ado, here’s Emily and her writing space.

I do most of my writing in a small white room, typically with at
least one cat on my desk. I’ve thought about repainting (the room, not the cat), because off-white is pretty unadventurous, but I’m typically paralyzed by indecision when I visit paint stores and I have to admit, there’s something restful about the pallor of the room.

There’s a small desk and a wooden chair, a lamp, two bookshelves and two filing cabinets, a lot of books, and several uncontained avalanches of loose-leaf paper. Above my desk there’s a window; when I’m working I can’t see much above the air conditioner, just sky and a neighbor’s ancient TV antenna, but if I stand up there’s a landscape of Brooklyn rooftops and fire escapes. The room’s very quiet. There are neighbors who play bad music in a garden below the window on Sundays, but that’s what noise-blocking headphones are for.

There are photographs on the walls—street and subway photography from New York, Rome, and Montreal—and also two images from Google Maps that I find particularly gorgeous; both are satellite images of the north coast of Russia, improbable greens and deep blues and frozen lakes like silver mirrors. They remind me of stained glass. There’s also a particularly nice letter from my agent, which I keep on the wall for encouragement purposes; a poster for La Femme Nikita; and the most famous section from Raymond Chandler’s essay The Simple Art of Murder written out on a piece of scrap paper (“In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption . . . ”)

Just above my desk there are innumerable little scraps of paper taped to the wall, containing notes of varying depth and legibility related to whatever project I’m presently working on. This is because my note-taking system isn’t particularly organized or actually even really a system, and there’s always some risk of losing whatever idea just occurred to me (see paragraph 2: “avalanches of loose-leaf paper”) if I don’t immediately stick it on the wall in front of my face.

I’ll occasionally become desperate for a change of scene and go work in the living room by the windows, looking down over the avenue four stories below, or I’ll go out and lose myself for a while with a stack of manuscript pages in the pleasant din of a local café. But this room is my oasis, and I spend a shocking percentage of my life working between these four walls with the door closed.

Thanks again to Emily for sharing with us her writing space. Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of Last Night in Montreal.

Until then, check out this video and this post by Emily at Powell’s Books.

Don’t forget my current giveaways:

2-year Blogiversary

Secrets to Happiness

Guest Post: Gail Graham, Author of Sea Changes

I’d like to welcome Gail Graham, author of Sea Changes, to Savvy Verse & Wit. Today, she’s going to provide us with some insight on her writing and the struggles she most recently faced. Please give Gail a warm welcome.

When my husband died, I was devastated. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even talk to anyone for more than a couple of minutes without bursting into tears. And of course, I couldn’t write.

Over time, things got better. I managed to go back to work. I could interact with my students and colleagues. I’d lost a lot of weight, and people kept telling me how good I looked. But I still couldn’t write.

It was as if part of me had died. And not just any old part of me, but the best and most important part of me. All my life, I’d thought of myself — and described myself — as a writer. But whoever heard of a writer who couldn’t write!

People said, Give yourself time. It’ll get better. But years passed, and it didn’t get better. I still couldn’t write.

But I dreamed, incredible, complicated, detailed dreams. Almost every night, my subconscious mind conjured up people I had never met and places I had never seen, all in vivid color and detail. Sometimes, the dreams would continue over several nights, picking up where they’d left off. My dream life was as colorful and exciting as my waking life was dull and drab. In my dreams, I felt alive.

So I started writing them down, every morning. They didn’t make much sense, written down. There was no story line, no plot. The characters continually changed, and so did the places. Still, it was writing. Maybe it would lead to something. Maybe it would lead me back to the person I used to be.

More years passed. My dream life was more real to me than my waking life. I often thought of Chuangzi, the Chinese philosopher who fell asleep beneath a tree and dreamed he was a butterfly. When he awoke he asked himself, Am I Chuangzi who dreamed I was a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I’m Chuangzi?

I felt that I was living in two worlds, simultaneously. One of them was real and the other was imaginary. I knew that. I wasn’t crazy. But the world I preferred was the imaginary one. And that was how Sarah Andrews, the protagonist of Sea Changes was born.

Sarah seemed very real. And it was easy to write about her, and to describe her walk to the beach for that final swim. Hooray! I was writing again! But where was this going? What would happen to Sarah as she swam out towards the horizon? I had absolutely no idea. And suddenly, there was Bantryd.

The mind is a wonderful thing. The imagination is a wonderful thing. And all of this has taught me that the world is a wonderful place, a place where truly, anything is possible.

Thanks, Gail, for sharing your experiences with us and for taking the time out of your busy schedule to stop by Savvy Verse & Wit. Please check out the book synopsis and excerpt below for Sea Changes.

About the book:

When Sarah’s husband dies suddenly, she is left with no anchor and no focus.

Grief is an ever-present companion and counseling a weekly chore with minimal results, but when Sarah decides to end her life her suicide attempt takes her to an underwater world where she finds comfort and friendship. Afterwards, back on the beach she wonders – Was it a dream? Was I hallucinating? Or am I going mad?

Her efforts to make sense of the experience lead to Sarah’s becoming a suspect in the alleged kidnapping of a young heiress. Now her worlds are colliding – and the people she trusts are backing away, not believing a word she says. She must decide what is real and what is not. Her life depends on it.

Excerpt from Sea Changes:

She doesn’t have to get up if she doesn’t want to. She doesn’t have to do anything. Propped against the pillows, she watches the changing patterns of light filter through the branches of the tree outside her window. She could lie here until Friday and nobody would know or care. But that would be giving up. You’re not supposed to give up. You’re supposed to keep trying, whether you feel like it or not. If you keep going through the motions, sooner or later, something will kick in.

So she gets up and dresses, even though she’s not going anywhere. She puts on clean underwear and clean, pressed clothes. Her appointment with Kahn isn’t until Friday, but that’s not the point. You can’t spend the day in your nightgown.

There’s nothing much in the newspaper. There rarely is. It’s Australia, only eighteen million people in the whole country. Sitting at the kitchen table with a second mug of coffee, Sarah tackles the crossword puzzle. It was years before she mastered Australian crossword puzzles, which contain fewer words than their American counterparts and are shaped differently, more like skeletons than grids. The spellings are different too.

She hasn’t eaten since yesterday and she ought to be hungry, but isn’t. French women don’t get fat because they don’t eat unless they’re hungry. Sarah looks in the refrigerator, but nothing tempts her. She needs to go shopping. Later, perhaps, when it’s not so hot. She wishes she had a ceiling fan, or better still, central air conditioning. Nobody in Sydney has air conditioning. They don’t think it’s necessary, not with the beach so close. Nobody has central heating, either. They say it doesn’t get cold enough, but it does.

Sarah picks up a novel from the library and tries to concentrate. It’s not a very good novel, although it’s supposed to be a bestseller. That doesn’t mean anything, these days. Everything’s a bestseller. The protagonist has left his wife, is having an affair, has just learned he’s got cancer. He’ll probably die at the end. Sarah thinks he deserves to die and dozes off on the couch. When she opens her eyes, damp and sticky with the perspiration of an afternoon nap, it’s already getting dark.

The telephone rings. Nobody calls her, except telemarketers and sometimes Kahn, when he needs to cancel a session. If it rings five times, the machine will answer it. Five, six, seven. Maybe she’s forgotten to turn the machine on.

About the Author:

Gail Graham’s previous novel, CROSSFIRE, won the Buxtehude Bulle, a prestigious German literary award. CROSSFIRE has been translated into German, French, Danish, Finnish and Swedish. Three of Gail’s other books were NY Times Book of the Year recommendations. Gail lived in Australia for 32 years, where she owned and operated a community newspaper and published several other books, including A COOL WIND BLOWING (a biography of Mao Zedong) STAYING ALIVE and A LONG SEASON IN HELL. She returned to the United States in 2002, and now lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Check out this giveaway:

1 copy of Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham, here; Deadline is June 10, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

Guest Post: Holly Denham, Author of Holly’s Inbox

I want you to welcome Holly Denham, also known as Bill Surie, to Savvy Verse & Wit. Sourcebooks also is offering 1 copy for one U.S. or Canadian reader of my blog; check out the details below. Now, please welcome Holly Denham, author of Holly’s Inbox.

My favorite character in Holly’s Inbox is Granny. She is very much like my own Granny who was for ever finding new and exciting ways to terrorize my mother. When Holly’s parents moved to Spain, Granny had to be ‘involuntarily re-housed’ as she put it and from there on she made it her duty to cause as much mischief and mayhem as possible.

The book came from the website – www.hollysinbox.com (which is once again live and following Holly’s story). The emails appear in ‘real time’ and therefore give a very real feel to her life.

When the site was first launched we set up email accounts for the characters, and as the story progressed and readers became emotionally involved, we began to receive an awful lot of mail directly through to the characters, some complimentary… some rather abusive. Without giving too much away one character in particular stirred up so much emotion that someone once said they were getting into their car right that minute, heading down the motorway to hunt them down and rip their head off – as no one treated ‘their Holly’ like that. Holly’s Inbox deals with many social issues you would find in offices across the world, it should make you laugh (a lot) (although if it doesn’t make you laugh I’ll now look like an idiot) (Oh stuff it – it’s funny so there you go) but it also takes you on a journey which at times can be very sad. I can’t just sit here typing about how fabulous it is, I could, but I imagine the lovely Lori wouldn’t let me. I hope the angry reader managed to calm down before they reached the motorway because London really is a very big place to be searching for fictitious characters lurking in my imagination. However I’m glad there are nice people out there willing to stand up for Holly.

The idea for the site came one day when we had to trawl through an ex-employees work email account. The woman in question was single, extremely flirtatious and had always loved us to bits. We discovered she was married with four children, and couldn’t stand the sight of us. The life she was leading was so full of mystery, intrigue, romance (and many many lies) that it made me wonder what it would be like to read a story told in this way.

I began writing and quickly commissioned a fantastic website developer and together we began working out a way of getting the story across by emails. All I wanted was a way of attracting more receptionists to our agency, and this seemed to be the answer.

An email went out to 90,000 people telling them NOT to visit Hollysinbox.com because unscrupulous IT hacks had posted a live email account of a fellow employee onto the web in total disregard of our privacy laws.

We said – if she was working for your company it was essential you let her know NOW! Before the world discovered what she really thought about her co-workers.

Holly’s Inbox follows the life of Holly Denham a new receptionist on the front desk of an investment bank in London. She attempts to retain her sanity, whilst juggling some rather surreal characters in both her personal and work life. Between her gossipy co-workers, supervisors breathing down her neck, and some intriguing emails from a flirtatious VP, Holly is in for more than she ever imagined. And when a secret from her past makes an unwelcome appearance, Holly’s unsure if she has what it takes to survive the corporate workplace.

As the story reached it’s climax I began to panic. The site would be over and I had no idea what I was going to do next, so I began emailing as many agents as possible the web link; without knowing what I wanted from them. At last a wonderful fabulous woman replied and told me it would work in a book… and it did. Holly’s Inbox has now been translated into 6 different languages but the one place I had always dreamed about being published was of course the USA, and Sourcebooks have at last let me achieve this dream!!!!

Out of interest the character with the most mail was Granny – as it should be.

About the Author:

Bill Surie is the owner of a placement service for receptionists and secretaries in London. He started the www.HollysInbox.com as a place to serialize his first novel. His second novel is now in the works and currently lives in England and Spain with his wife and daughter. You can also find Holly on facebook and twitter!

Giveaway Information: (U.S. and Canada residents only, no P.O. Boxes)

1. Enter a comment on this post for one entry

2. Blog, tweet, or spread the word about the giveaway

3. Follow this blog or let me know if you already do.

Deadline June 10, 2009, 11:59 PM EST


Holly’s Inbox was reviewed by:

The Book Kitten

Diary of an Eccentric (check out Bill’s guest post)

Don’t forget these great giveaways:

3 copies of Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton, here; Deadline is June 3, 2009, 11:59 PM EST.

1 copy of Reunion by Therese Fowler, here; Deadline is June 4, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

Guest Post: Therese Fowler, Author of Reunion

Welcome to another Savvy Verse & Wit guest post; this time it’s Reunion author Therese Fowler discussing her reading habits as a reader and as a novelist. I want to thank Therese for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about her reading. Without further ado, here she is.

Before I was a novelist, I was an avid reader of all kinds of fiction (and some nonfiction). I have a lot of interests and I love to be outdoors, but few things please me better than finding a good book and time to read it. I noticed, though, that once I began writing with the goal of becoming a novelist, I became a different sort of reader, a more critical, less satisfied one—call it an occupational hazard. It has taken some effort to learn how to access my earlier reader-self so that I never lose my love for books and reading.

I thought it might be interesting to list the ways I see books when I’m in reader mode versus writer mode, and came up with these two lists.

Reading as Therese the Avid Reader:

  1. I will read any sort of novel, from science fiction to literary fiction to mystery to romance to mainstream, if someone whose judgment I trust hands the book over and says “Read this!
  2. Critical opinion doesn’t sway me much, because I’ve found that few critics share reader’s sensibilities. Similarly, I’m reluctant to read a book just because “everyone” has read it—some of those books have been the biggest disappointments.
  3. My ideal novel is a well-paced, captivating story told artfully. Artful prose itself, though I can admire it, isn’t enough to keep me reading. I need to be curious and/or I need to care about what happens next.
  4. I don’t believe in making a value distinction between fiction that’s entertaining versus fiction that’s instructional or enlightening. A “good” novel is any story that captivates and transports me and suits my need or my mood at the time.
  5. No matter what book is in my hands, my ideal reading experience involves a quiet house, a bowl of popcorn, and a glass of wine.

Reading as Therese the Novelist:

  1. I am a much more critical reader than I ever was before I was a writer. Clunky or amateurish writing, implausible plot lines, inconsistent characterization and reader manipulation are things that will keep me from finishing a book I’ve started. On the other end of the spectrum, storytelling that is too “dear,” meaning too clever, or too self-referential, or too high-brow, or too self-serious is also a real turn-off. I elect not to finish most of the books I pick up.
  2. Popular authors’ books are rarely considered for literary awards, but I believe it takes a lot more effort and talent to become and remain a bestselling author—usually writing one or more books every year—than it does to produce one nicely done novel or story collection every few years (at most). True, some of those popular books aren’t especially artful, but some are, and deserve award consideration.
  3. My hero is Vladimir Nabokov, whose novel Lolita is a brilliant example of an author doing everything right.
  4. I fear for any author who, following an unexpectedly successful book, gets offered millions of dollars for the next one they’ll write. That sort of success is almost always an un-reproducible phenomenon, and that next book is almost certainly going to disappoint a lot of the readers who loved the previous one.
  5. My goal is to tell a different story with every book, and to always immerse my readers in what highly respected author and writing teacher John Gardiner called “the vivid and uninterrupted dream” of a good story, told well. That being the case, I’m perpetually looking for this kind of reading experience, both for pleasure and for instruction—so when I find it, it’s nirvana.

Thanks again Therese Fowler. If you liked this guest post, stay tuned for my review of Reunion and a giveaway on May 28.

About the Author:

Therese Fowler has believed in the magic of a good story since she learned to read at the age of four. At age thirty, as a newly single parent, she put herself into college, earning a degree in sociology (and finding her real Mr. Right) before deciding to scratch her longtime fiction-writing itch. That led to an MFA in creative writing, and the composition of stories that explore the nature of our families, our culture, our mistakes, and our desires.

The author of two novels, with a third scheduled for 2010, Therese lives in Wake Forest, NC, with her supportive husband and sons, and two largely indifferent cats. You can visit her website or her blog.

Don’t Forget About These Great Giveaways!

2 copies of The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, here; Deadline is May 22 at 11:59 PM EST

1 Signed Copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo, here. Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59PM EST.

2 copies of The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa, here; Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

George Rabasa: Punching in at the Fiction Factory

I’d like to welcome George Rabasa, author of The Wonder Singer, to Savvy Verse & Wit. I hope you enjoy the journey through Rabasa’s workspace and writing routine as part of his tour for The Wonder Singer, published by Unbridled Books.

Punching in at the Fiction Factory

I’m late, I’m late! It’s 9:13 and the brain is humming but the author is not writing. Not a good situation for the novel in progress (two years, four months, three weeks, four days, so far). Still, I just can’t dive in. Like a good athlete I need a little warm-up – might strain a brain cell or two otherwise. So, I check e-mail (nothing much), news headlines (nothing much), calendar (nothing much there either).

I take a look around the Fiction Factory, and I’m energized by the red walls (“cayenne,” actually), the Mexican rug with the huichol designs depicting the symbols for the eagle, corn, flowers, peyote. Packed bookshelves holding a lifetime of reading, and learning. This is where my masters live – Garcia Marquez, Updike, Lowry, Borges, DeLillo, Cervantes, and that’s enough name dropping for now. There are pictures on the walls, some by friends. On the i-pod player, Perla Batalla sings Leonard Cohen.

Before I know it, I’m staring at the screen, cursor blinking, words waiting to be arranged and rearranged. Commas achieving the importance of subatomic particles; take one out or put one in and the order of the universe has been altered. The new novel is about 90,000 words so far, but all I think about for the next hour or so is a sentence, a paragraph, a scene. It’s one step at a time, without thinking too much about the finish line. Then I move on, at a snail’s pace, to the next sentence. And so on…

Finally, it’s lunch time! My union contract with management specifies a decent time for lunch and reading and nap. Then a couple of hours of the afternoon shift. And it’s time to meditate, run, wine, dinner, chocolate. Ah, a happy routine! While I’m often told I should get a life, I can’t think of a better one.

Thanks to George Rabasa for taking us through a typical day. Stay Tuned for my review of The Wonder Singer tomorrow.

Don’t Forget About These Great Giveaways!

2 copies of The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, here; Deadline is May 22 at 11:59 PM EST

1 Signed Copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo, here. Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59PM EST.

C.W. Gortner: Lust and Jealousy: The Legend of Juana’s Obsessive Sexuality

Welcome to C.W. Gortner’s “Lust and Jealousy: The Legend of Juana’s Obsessive Sexuality” guest post as part of the Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Tour.

Please welcome C.W. Gortner to Savvy Verse & Wit:

Juana la Loca, known to history as the Mad Queen of Spain, has certainly had her share of bad press. Infamous for her unruly temperament, she allegedly was so jealous and possessive of her husband Philip of Habsburg that she let her entire world fall apart, preferring to track down his infidelities than attend to her kingdom.

But, how much of her obsessive sexuality is true?

Juana and Philip’s tumultuous marriage certainly became a scandal of epic proportions that raced through Europe’s royal courts much the way celebrity scandal fuels the Internet today. It is said Queen Anne of Britanny, wife of Louis of France, eagerly awaited her spy’s dispatches from Flanders every week, impatient to discover the latest in the saga that wrecked Juana’s reputation. While it is amusing to picture the rotund French queen ripping open dispatches and gleefully reveling in the Spanish Infanta’s misfortune, what happened to Juana, and the effect it had on her image for centuries to come, is not. Much like the late Princess Diana, whose collapsing marriage so mesmerized us with its undercurrent of royal sexual woe, there was far more to Juana’s predicament than an inability to turn a blind eye to extramarital dalliance. And much like Diana’s, the marriage that started out with such fairytale promise would in the end become a weapon used to undercut Juana’s stature with calumny and distortion of facts.

While we can never know for certain, it seems likely Juana and Philip enjoyed a mutually satisfactory sex life—at least at first. Like most royal couples, their marriage was arranged according to political necessities. They did not set eyes on each other in person until she arrived in Flanders as a fifteen year-old virgin bride. Unlike most royal couples, they were apparently so besotted with each other that Philip ordered them wed on the spot, so they could hasten their nuptial night. Her ladies reported to Juana’s mother Queen Isabel that the Infanta and the Archduke were “active in pursuit of an heir”; they seemed very much in love, until Juana discovered that Philip believed he had the prerogative to seek pleasure elsewhere while his wife was expecting. For Juana, the shock must have been considerable. She had been raised under the strict guardianship of her mother, sheltered in many ways from the world’s harsh realities. While she must have known about her own father’s infidelities, she did not emulate the example set by her mother or other queens of the era, which was basically to treat the indiscretion as unworthy of notice. Instead she confronted Philip and thus sowed the first seed in the alleged disintegration of her sanity.

Some say Juana’s jealousy is proof that derangement lurked under her tempestuous nature and her infamous attack of one of Philip’s mistresses after a catastrophic visit to Spain is always the centerpiece of this theory. History records that following Philip’s abrupt departure from Spain, Juana fell into a melancholic stupor, forced to stay put until she gave birth to their fifth child. As soon as she did, she went berserk, unhinged by rumors that Philip had taken a mistress in her absence, refusing all counsel and staging a horrific protest in the castle where she was lodged until her ailing mother had no choice but to let her daughter return to Flanders in the dead of winter. While certainly dramatic, this story ignores the desperate political crisis Philip’s actions had precipitated in Spain and the untenable situation Juana faced. So, she undertook that fateful step that would brand her forever.

Every story has two sides. The cliché of the sexually obsessive wife who kept tabs on her husband’s every move even as her kingdom was torn asunder is convenient for Juana’s detractors, and she certainly displayed at times a spectacular forthrightness that stunned her contemporaries. It was not in Juana’s nature to remain passive or silent. She was far more complex than history has allowed—and infinitely more interesting than the stereotype she has become. From her initial youthful naïveté to the misguided belief that love could change anything Juana’s relationship with Philip twisted into something much crueler and darker, initiating a battle that, when viewed in its entirety, negates the legend of a queen enslaved by her own uncontrollable desires.


C.W. Gortner’s fascination with history is a lifetime pursuit. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from the New College of California and often travels to research his books. He has experienced life in a medieval Spanish castle and danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall; dug through library archives all over Europe; and tried to see and touch — or, at least, gaze at through impenetrable museum glass — as many artifacts of the era as he can find.

Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, publishes The Last Queen in trade paperback on May 5, 2009. A Random House Readers Circle Selection, it features a reading group guide and Q&A with the author. C.W. Gortner is also available for reader group chats by speaker phone or Skype. Visit Reader Groups for more information.

He lives in Northern California. You can visit his Website.

***Giveaway Information***

2 copies of The Last Queen have been donated by the author for my awesome readers.

1. 1 entry, comment on my review on May 8.

2. 1 entry, comment on this interview.

3. Tell me if you are a follower or follow this blog and tell me for a 3rd entry.

4. Spread the word on your blog, etc., and get a 4th entry.

Deadline May 22, 2009, 11:59 PM EST


***Giveaway Reminders***

1 copy of Rubber Side Down Edited by Jose Gouveia, here; Deadline is May 15 at 11:59 PM EST

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:

The Bluestocking Society
Nerd’s Eye View
Lotus Reads
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.


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/

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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.***