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The Memorist by M.J. Rose

I received the The Memorist by M.J. Rose as part of a TLC Book Tour. Please stay tuned for my interview with M.J. Rose after my review.

The Memorist is the second in a series of books about reincarnation, lost memory tools, and the struggle of Meer Logan to find herself through her past. Her father had struggled to help Meer recall her past-life memories to the surface, but she found her life bearable only when she avoided the triggers that called those memories to the surface. Readers also will find the historical bits about the Nazis and their experiments undertaken in Vienna disturbing.

M.J. Rose’s narrative technique easily transports readers to Vienna, the home of Ludwig von Beethoven, and to Vienna in the past when Beethoven lived and taught in the city. She carefully weaves a suspenseful tale to find a lost memory tool once in the possession of Beethoven. Meer not only struggles with the surfacing memories, but with whom she should trust of her father’s friends and how deeply she should not only confide in them but lean on them when the memories flood her mind.

“Margaux’s lovely home was filled with cleaver and important people, fine food and charming music. It was all a patina. The threads that held the partygoers’ polite masks in place were fragile. Everyone in Vienna had an agenda and a plan for how the reapportionment of Europe would work best for them now that Napoleon was in exile. . . . So even here tonight, at what purported to be a totally social gathering, nothing was as it seemed.” (Page 226)

This paragraph illustrates the facades built up around her father, her long-time confidant Malachai, and her father’s sorrowful, new friend Sebastian. The face they present to one another does not represent reality; her father hides many things from her, just as she prepares speeches she believes he wants to hear. While this story is a thriller reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code, it is much more. It illuminates the relationship between Meer and her father and the secrets that lie beneath.

“‘Yes, behind the facades of these elegant buildings are ugly secrets and dirty shadows. . . .'” (Page 297)

Readers will enjoy the shifting perspectives from chapter to chapter and the subplot that lurks beneath the surface, which could change everything for the main characters and Vienna. Music, art, and mystery are the order of the day in The Memorist, and they are woven together beautifully.

“Lifting the plastic cover over the keys she put her fingers on the yellowed ivory and began. The piano had obviously been kept tuned and she was surprised at how differently this two-hundred-year-old instrument played from the ones she was used to. There was more power and feel to its sound, less control, less sustaining power and it seemed she could do more with its loudness and softness.” (Page 252)

Meer underestimates her abilities, and readers will love the evolution of her character. The only drawback in the novel for readers may be the repetition of several descriptive lines as Meer enters her past memories–“a metallic taste fills her mouth.” Aside from this minor annoyance, which quickly fades into the background after several chapters, this novel is action-packed, thrilling, and absorbing. M.J. Rose has done her research and created a believable world in which reincarnation is a viable theory that can be put into action through the recovery and use of various tools.

Check out The Memorist Reading Guide and an excerpt from the book.

Without further ado, here’s my interview with M.J. Rose:

1. When writing The Memorist did you listen to music? If you had to chose five songs that coordinated with The Memorist what would they be and why?

All of Beethoven’s symphonies because he is part of the book and the music of Doug Scofield because he wrote two songs for the book.


2.
Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?


I love visiting museums, reading, walking our dog in any and all parks, and the ocean.


3.
Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).


Definitely not Bird by Bird. 🙂 I might the only writer who couldn’t even finish that book. Not knocking it – just not my cup of tea. What helps me is keeping a journal of my character’s life, and reading and rereading great books that I’ve loved over the years, plus I read John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction once a year.

This is one area M.J. Rose and I disagree. Check out my review of The Art of Fiction.


4.
A great deal of writing advice suggests that amateur writers focus on what they know or read the genre you plan to write. Does this advice hold true for you? How so (i.e., what authors do you read)?

I read too many to mention – but I love Paul Auster and Steve Berry and Lisa Tucker and Alice Hoffman and Daniel Silva and Daphne Du Maurier and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Laurie King and Louis Bayard and on and on and on … and from that list you can see I don’t agree on reading in the genre you want to write exclusively at all. I don’t really believe in genres – I believe in good books – genres are what publishers do to books to figure out what to buy and where to put it in the store.

5. Do you have any favorite food or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?


I think writers block comes from not knowing your character and writing too soon in the process. I don’t think you should just sit down and write every day. I think you need to get inside your story and the people who inhabit its world however you need to do that – for me it requires swimming a lot and a lot of long walks where I focus on the characters for hours a time.

Foods, no. I drink green tea while I’m working but I don’t nibble at the computer:) Just when I’m done.


6.
Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.


I have trained myself to write anywhere so my writing space is my laptop wherever it needs to be. And as long as my dog is nearby, it’s ideal.

About the Author (From her Website):

M.J. Rose, is the international bestselling author of 10 novels; Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix, The Reincarnationist, and The Memorist.

Rose is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How to Publish and Promote Online, and with Doug Clegg of Buzz Your Book.

She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She runs two popular blogs; Buzz, Balls & Hype and Backstory.

Breathing Out the Ghost by Kirk Curnutt

I received Kirk Curnutt‘s Breathing Out the Ghost for a TLC Book Tour. Kirk also graciously agreed to answer a few questions and giveaway 3 copies of his book to 3 lucky winners anywhere in the world! Stay tuned for the interview and giveaway details.

How would you react if you lost a child? What is the appropriate reaction for a parent who has lost a child? These are the questions tackled in Breathing Out the Ghost. Moving on after a child has disappeared or has been murdered is unimaginable, but life does move on; but how it moves on is up to the family impacted by these tragedies.

“From inside the cab of the combine, Pete watched the reels of the header bat down row after row of soybeans. As the stalks fell backwards, their stems snipped clean by a line of saw teeth on the header’s bottom cutter bar, the bean pods scratched against the metal of the machinery, making the sound of a whisking broom on carpet.” (page 244)

This passage signifies how both Sis and Pete Pruitt and Colin and Kimm St. Claire tackle their grief and pick up the remnants of their lives. The process of rebuilding is a series of fits and starts and restarts; it’s not pretty and it’s never complete. Like the stalks cut down in this passage, lives are halted and lives are skinned raw. While Sis and Pete continue with their lives as best as possible and become a source of selfless comfort for others hit by tragedy in their town, Kimm is left to her own devices when her husband Colin, who calls himself a modern Ahab of the highway, sets out on a journey to find their lost son, A.J. Both stories are separate and connected, but only begin to intersect when St. Claire finds Sis Pruitt at a local fair where she and her group, Parents of Murdered Children, share their photo quilt.

Curnutt doesn’t bob and weave around the anguish these families feel, but he does ensure that each member of these families expresses sorrow and loss in their own way. He’s masterful at creating believable characters, even complex players like Robert Heim, who chose to leave behind his family to save St. Claire from himself.

However, this novel is more than a look at loss, it gauges the inability of control over life and what we as individuals do with that realization. The inability to control life is most evident in St. Claire’s actions, but it peeks out from behind Sis’ veil of normalcy as well. When Sis works with her community members to provide food for volunteers searching for a lost boy, she loses herself in the kitchen conversation, almost fooling herself into believing she’s normal. It’s only when she expresses herself and her memories of her dead daughter, Patty, that she realizes normalcy is not hers.

Through masterful language and description, Curnutt paints a vivid Midwest landscape in which these characters languish in grief and yet flourish in it. From Michigan to Indiana, readers will picture the asphalt highway that becomes St. Claire’s home, office, and escape and the Pruitt’s farm that provides them with order in a town where they feel they have been branded by the murder of their daughter.

One of the best passages in this book is found on page 219, where St. Claire is recording his thoughts on cassette tape for his lost son:

“When I see myself I don’t see anything organic, anything original. I steal my aphorisms from outside sources. My actions pantomime the exploits of others. I’m all imitation, a gloss of a citation. Somewhere along the line I began compiling myself from the excerpts of better men.”

Many of these characters are looking for ways to fill the holes inside them left by loss. And this novel is not just about the loss of loved ones; it is a novel about losing oneself in that loss, allowing it to swallow you whole. The introduction of Sis’ grandmother, Ethel, who has dementia, is a nice addition to the cast. Not only has she experienced the loss of loved ones, but also her own memories and sense of self. However, she is less tortured by that loss, as she is not bound by time lines or turning points that she would like to have a chance to do over. Regret and a lack of control over life can sometimes be more powerful than actual loss. While there are some graphic details involving sexual predator Dickie-Bird, St. Claire’s mythical white whale, this novel is an insightful look at grief, family, and perseverance.

Here’s my short interview with Kirk regarding his writing and advice for amateur writers.
Click on his photo to check out his Website.

1. Writers tend to be drawn to a particular genre and style. What would you consider your style? What genre are you most drawn to when writing and when reading? How do the genres you are drawn to when reading and writing differ or are they the same?

I like to think of myself as a lyrical writer. I’m very much influenced by F. Scott Fitzgerald in terms of colors and textures. I also like the way he described emotions. A lot of his stuff is romantic in that it stops just short of sentimentality, and I find myself drawn to that border too. So I like writing with a density to it: Toni Morrison, for example. And Moby-Dick is a biggie for me. I love to get lost in “The Whiteness of the Whale” chapter. I’m not a big fan of stripped-down prose and simple sentences, despite the fact that in my other life I’m a Hemingway scholar. Hemingway is great for aspiring writer because you can learn a lot about how to write landscape.


Because I teach, I read a wide range of books, though mostly 19th and 20th century American novels. I suppose I’m drawn to sadder books these days, but only because I find the characters a bit more complex than in comedy. A lot of humor anymore is satirical, meaning the dramatis personae tend to be stereotypes of predictable behavior. This gets particularly irksome in gender comedies. One of my favorite contemporary writers is Thomas Sanchez, who did a great book about Key West called Mile Zero about twenty years ago. His writing tends to be over the top. I also like Andre DuBois II―you can tell he cares about his characters. I try to balance out the more literary stuff with crime books, too. I’m a huge noir fan, and I read all the Hard Case Crime paperbacks when they come out, though I enjoy some more than others. Noir is tricky to do because it’s so stylized―it can come off a little too jokey if the characters aren’t compelling.

2. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott)


I think you can learn practical steps from manuals and workshops, but really, a lot of development depends upon being an honest observer of your own strengths and weaknesses. I took several writing workshops when I was in my twenties, but I didn’t particularly find them helpful because people were too competitive and there was a lot of posturing instead of work.


I have a small circle of fellow writers who share their work in progress, and it’s the best thing in the world because we’re mutually supportive. We can call each other on deficiencies without hurting each other’s feelings. I also tend to read a lot of literary criticism and narrative theory for ideas and techniques. I loved James Wood’s How Fiction Works, even though I disagree with a lot of his orthodoxies.


3. There is a great deal of poetic prose in your novel, Breathing Out the Ghost. Have you written poetry or have you considered it? Why or Why not?


No, I’ve never tried poetry, in part, I think, because I’m too attached to plot. I do love poetic prose, however, and I think a writer should test the limits of language. That’s part of the reason that I love folks like Melville, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Morrison, as different as they all are. I read and teach modernist poetry regularly―I love Hilda Doolittle, for example―and it’s taught me a lot about imagery and symbolism. What a dash of poetry can bring to the prose is simply greater sensuousness. So much of the world feels flat and simplified today; we’ve gotten a bit of a tin ear when it comes to metaphor. So the poetic part is just there to challenge myself to appreciate the richness we tend to overlook.


4. A great deal of writing advice suggests that amateur writers focus on what they know or read the genre you plan to write. Does this advice hold true for you? How so (i.e. what authors do you read)?


I think the “write what you know” dictum is the worst thing that ever happened to writing. It’s been bad for two reasons: it’s encouraged people to believe that personal experience is the only font of knowledge that’s worth exploring, and, as a result, it has discouraged people from learning new things. To me a far better philosophy would be, “If you want to write about something you don’t know, go out and learn it.” And the reality is that professional writers do this on a daily basis.


In my own case, I knew zilch about farming except for some embarrassing memories about how useless I was when I was a child and I would try to help my grandparents milk and harvest. I wanted to know the language of combines and hogs, however, so I went out and educated myself, both by visiting farms and reading books. I’m fortunate that I have a very tolerant uncle who entertains a lot of my stupid questions.


The other downside of only writing what you know is that writers tend to create characters that are only variations of themselves. As much as I love Hemingway and Fitzgerald, they and their generation are to blame for this tendency. At its most reductive, the idea gets boiled down to the notion that men can’t create convincing female characters and that women have the same problem with men. I think what actually happens is that sometimes we as writers don’t extend our characters the courtesy of empathy: we create them as foils whose behavior is the axe we want to grind.


Take the two spouses in Ghost, for example. It was very important to me that readers be able to identify with the dilemmas of both Pete Pruitt and Kim St. Claire as much as the narrative sympathies encourage them to care about Sis and Colin respectively. In essence, I wanted the audience to see the lack of generosity in my main characters’ resentments toward their families, because otherwise all I would have is an unemotional husband and an unfaithful wife. Motives are more complex. I guess the key word is empathy: I think challenging yourself to write about people who aren’t you is both artistically and ethically beneficial. It teaches you a bit of humility about your own opinions, and it allows you to feel for the things other people have suffered without pity or condescension.


5. If you were to create a playlist for your novel, what are the top five songs on that list?


This is a great question! I actually had a group of songs I would play as I was writing. Music is great inspiration because it’s such a different medium and it’s a productive challenge to try to translate its effect into words. The top songs would include:


a) “Yer Blues” by the Beatles. From The White Album, of course. I actually imagined Colin St. Claire listening to this song in the opening chapter, if only because I have memories of listening to it when I was in my very early teens. The Beatles may have been my first earphone album―you know, the kind of record that you end up spending heaps of time listening to in your own little world. Years later I read a quote from Eric Clapton talking about how hard it was for him to take this song seriously because it was so intense it seemed like a parody of the blues. I mean, the lyrics are way over the top: Yes I’m lonely / Wanna die.… etc. etc. Whatever John Lennon’s feelings for it were― and I don’t think he really cared for it―”Yer Blues” has always struck me as that kind of primal scream that’s as much about showing off one’s desperation as it is actually experiencing it. In that way, it seemed to capture for me the solipsism of Colin St. Claire’s quest for his lost son. Here is a version from the Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAjdRHzH4M8


I just love the Beatles! I have to go out and find this song…perhaps the next time I’m at my parents. My dad has the White Album on LP!


b) “You R Loved” by Victoria Williams. This is a great bit of horn-tinged gospel that’s always embodied for me generosity and redemption. Victoria is often depicted as a sort of hippie kook, but there’s a deeply caring side to her music that makes me think of the word healing. I love the chorus: Jesus walked on the water / He turned the water into wine / He went down to the drunkards / To tell them everything is fine / You R loved, You R loved, You R loved. This is the song St. Claire’s daughter would sing to her father. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go4D_sht00Y


c) “Little Bird” by the Beach Boys. Yes, the Beach Boys. I’m the world’s biggest BB nerd. There’s a real dark side to their late-60s music that only folks who can see past “Surfin’ U.S.A.” are aware of. This song, which appears on their extremely weird 1968 LP Friends, was the first song Dennis Wilson wrote. He later went on to make one of the best albums of the seventies, Pacific Ocean Blue. It would probably upset his fans to know this was the song I had in mind for the villain of Ghost, Dickie-Bird Johnson. “Little Bird” is often described as a gentle, child-like song, but to me it was always creepy. I mean, it was written while Dennis was hanging out with Charles Manson. It doesn’t get creepier than that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BLyXRPl1aE

I have to interject here that I would think that writing a song while hanging out with Charles Manson would indeed be very creepy!


d) “Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan. Not really well-known, but a beautiful song about humility that appeared in the early eighties at the end of his Christian phrase. I snipped a couple of lines for dialogue here and there in the book. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lueCTMdAfrw


e) “If I Should Fall Behind” by Bruce Springsteen. To my thinking, a great love song for people who’ve been together long enough to be disappointed and yet forgiving. I played this over and over while I was writing the scenes between Sis and Pete. There are several versions of this song; it’s been recorded by everybody from Dion (doo-wop) to Linda Ronstadt (jazz). My favorite is the version Springsteen did with the E Street Band c. 2000. Each member of the group takes turns singing a verse, even Clarence Clemmons. It’s a really effective arrangement―way better than the 1992 original. Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true / But you and I know what this world can do―that’s my favorite line. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSAevK9__3k&feature=related


6. In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?


I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing, so my friendships really haven’t changed in the years I’ve been trying to write seriously. I do have four or five really close friends who are in this game, but the majority of my friends have their own interests. Some are painters, some mechanics, some farmers, some Air Force lieutenants, some bartenders. I think it’s healthy to have a wide circle of folks who aren’t writers. You learn more by hanging out with people who aren’t like you because they know things you don’t. Friends are great sources of knowledge.

I also agree that having friends who aren’t writers is a benefit!


7. Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.


I have what’s called a “hidden room” in my house. It’s basically a half-attic that’s been converted into a spare bedroom. I use it for an office. I keep it pretty stark: a little computer table, bookshelves, and a table to hold my coffee cup. I’m usually up in it by five so I can write before work. For years I had a laptop and worked anywhere I could: sometimes at Panera’s or Barnes and Noble, sometimes in my room, sometimes in the car. What’s most important is that you keep up your schedule by being able to write wherever you’re at. Life is going to conspire to mess with your schedule, so you have to adapt.


Thanks so much for these questions! Thank you, Kirk, for graciously taking the time to answer my questions.

About the Author:

Kirk Curnutt is the author of eleven books of fiction and criticism, including the forthcoming thriller Dixie Noir (Fall 2009); Coffee with Hemingway (2007), an entry in Duncan Baird’s series of imaginary conversations with great historical figures: and the story collection, Baby, Let’s Make a Baby (2003).

Breathing Out the Ghost was named Best Fiction in the Indiana Center for the Book’s 2008 Best Books of Indiana Competition. It also won a bronze IPPY from the Independent Publishers Association and was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards. Curnutt’s other awards include three consecutive Hackney Awards for short-story writing (2004-2006) and the gold medal in nonfiction in the 2008 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition sponsored by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society.

A passionate devotee of all things F. Scott Fitzgerald, he is vice-president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society and a board member of the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

Now for the giveaway information: (Don’t forget to leave me an email or working blog profile)

1. One entry for a comment left on this post regarding why you want to read Breathing out the Ghost.

2. A second entry if you blog about or mention this contest in your sidebar, don’t forget to come back here and leave me a link.

3. A third entry if you comment on a previous or subsequent tour stop and leave me a link to the post you commented on.

Deadline for entries is Jan. 17 at Midnight EST

Here are the other TLC Book Tour Stops:

Monday, January 5th: Diary of an Eccentric

Tuesday, January 6th: Ramya’s Bookshelf Review and Guest Post

Wednesday, January 7th: The Sleepy Reader and Guest Post

Thursday, January 8th: Crime Ne.ws, formerly Trenchcoat Chronicles

Monday, January 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Tuesday, January 13th: Educating Petunia

Wednesday, January 14th: Michele- Only One ‘L’

Thursday, January 15th: Book Nut

Friday, January 16th: Anniegirl1138

Monday, January 19th: Caribou’s Mom

Tuesday, January 20th: Lost in Lima, Ohio

Wednesday, January 21st: A Novel Menagerie

Monday, January 26th: Catootes

Wednesday, January 28th: Bloody Hell, it’s a Book Barrage!

Thursday, February 12th: She is Too Fond of Books

You Lost Him at Hello by Jess McCann

Jess McCann’s You Lost Him at Hello is part of a TLC Book Tour and I want to thank TLC and Jess McCann for sending along the book for my review.

Despite being married myself, this book has some great advice about how to embrace yourself and become confident–know your product and learn how to sell it. In the dating world, confidence is everything, even if you don’t feel confident all the time. McCann lays the groundwork for each single woman in this book, seeking to provide practical applications of sales techniques in the dating world.

The best part of this book is the personal stories of her own dating snafus and those of her friends. These tidbits bring the practical advice to the forefront, detailing how the techniques can be applied to improve each woman’s dating life. While a lot of self-help books talk about making drastic changes to your routines and lifestyles in many instances, McCann offers some small steps you can take to get results. Check out Adventures of Wanderlust‘s post to see how small changes worked for her and her girlfriends.

Here are some main things to keep in mind, which may seem like common sense:

1. Know yourself and love yourself
2. Remain confident and share your opinions
3. Make eye contact and express interest in discussed topics, even those outside your comfort zone
4. Don’t be a telemarketer of dating; you cannot convince a man to be interested if he isn’t
5. Make yourself available and change up your routine to meet guys in a variety of places to prime the pump–keeping your options open until commitment is broached

I wanted to share this passage with you from McCann’s book, page 37:

My friend Kayla is the worst dater. . . . Kayla’s biggest problem is that she doesn’t really know who she is. She hasn’t yet figured out the kind of person that makes her Kayla. If you asked her if she was a Democrat or Republican, she would say that she’s not into politics. . . . She thought she was being easygoing by staying neutral, but instead she came off looking like she wasn’t smart enough to form her own opinion.

This book provides personal stories, saleswoman insights, and tips on how you can change how you interact and attract men. My favorite icebreakers are on page 75:

That drink looks good, what is it? (don’t most men drink beer?)
Didn’t you go to my high school?

One of McCann’s friends likes to ask guys if they’ve ever been waxed. Now that is one I certainly never would have thought to use.

While some of the advice in this book is common sense, other advice will help those who are still single and tired of playing games, getting dumped, and living in love limbo. There is some great insight into how to gauge men’s interest from how they look at you, converse with you, and how they interact with women.

I highly recommend this book for women who want to change their dating outcomes and find a steady relationship that will fulfill them and make them happy. I also think that this book has wider applications for women, teaching them how to become confident and skilled at engaging others in conversation not only on dates, but in friendships and the business arena. McCann does an excellent job of weaving advice into personalized experiences to engage the reader and help her own the lessons inside these pages.

Check out the next stop on the tour, Life in Pink.

About the Author:

Jess McCann is unlike any dating coach out there. Instead of the usual therapy-based date coaching, Jess takes a unique approach to finding and keeping the right person for you. Through her education and experience in business, she has made the remarkable discovery that dating is really a simple series of techniques that anyone can learn and succeed with.

At thirty years old, Jess was on top of the world. After graduating college, she had started her own sales company, where she single-handedly recruited, trained and managed a thirty-person sales team. She was chosen as one of America’s top entrepreneurs by Sir Richard Branson and traveled the world on his Fox reality show, The Rebel Billionaire. Having discovered first-hand that the art of sales directly translated into her dating life, Jess began counseling women, teaching them logical and proven sales techniques that they could use on their own dates. She continues to teach the fundamentals of sales and dating to women across the country.

***Don’t forget my giveaway for an inscribed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Deadline is Dec. 21 and the contest is international.**

***Stay tuned for The Green Beauty Guide winner, which I’ll post tomorrow, Dec. 18.***

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

Off The Menu TLC Book Tour & Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to host Off the Menu by Christine Son on Savvy Verse & Wit. You’re in for a treat today because not only will I share my review of the book with you, but Christine Son will also be offering her advice about writing and publishing. In addition, one of my lucky readers will have a chance to win a copy of Off the Menu, stay tuned for details. . .

In Houston, Texas, three friends with very different lives, backgrounds, and careers graduate high school as co-valedictorians; their friendship lasts beyond high school and through college, but how well do they really know one another after all of these years? Does Hercules Huang know Whitney Lee’s secret desire? Does Audrey Henley know the familial struggles Whitney and Hercules deal with daily from their immigrant parents who are steeped in tradition and their homeland culture? Likewise, do Hercules and Whitney understand what it is like to be adopted by a family of a different race like Audrey does?

These three characters, despite their differences, are more similar than they realize, and as the story unfolds, these characters evolve in the ways they could never have anticipated, but only once they have realized their best assets are held in their long-lasting friendship. Hercules is a master chef who owns her own restaurants, but her relationship with her father is strained at best, while Whitney is a third year attorney at a major law firm that only has one minority on staff–her. Audrey is an adopted Asian child from a wealthy family who teaches first-grade students at a local academy for intelligent students, but she doesn’t consider herself as a minority.

All three of these characters are under pressure from themselves, their families, and society to exceed everyone’s expectations. But in the midst of trying to achieve these goals and objectives, Hercules, Whitney, and Audrey discover they want something more, something different, something that is their own. Hercules’ restaurant chain is on the cusp of expansion, she’s writing articles for the National Spectator, and she’s finalizing a deal with a cookware manufacturer, but there is something missing in her life. Whitney is a top attorney in her third year with a firm that can only be described as an old boys’ network, but she longs for something off the beaten path. Audrey is a school teacher, but her dream lies in the Ivory Tower of academia.

Despite the longevity of their friendship, these characters never really open up to one another until they take their first girls only trip to Austin, Texas. The ability of these characters to keep their frustrations and dreams trapped inside is something readers can relate to, particularly if the readers perceive themselves as overachievers like Whitney, Audrey, and Hercules.

This novel touches upon the struggles many immigrants must feel when adjusting to a new home, but it also examines the transitions felt by all humanity when we move from our small high school community to college and to the workforce. Hercules is a strong and brash entrepreneur, but at the same time she is vulnerable. Whitney is strong, but flexible when the need arises, and Audrey is a bit naive, but strong in her convictions. When Jimmy Fujimoto blazes onto the scene in this novel, he nearly steals the show. His presence stands this friendship on its head and has all of these women calling into question some of their deepest convictions and beliefs.

Without further babbling about how great this book is (now my favorite friendship book), here’s Christine Son and her guest post for today.

*****

“Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

My debut novel, OFF THE MENU, hits bookshelves on August 5th, and recently, a lot of people have been asking me how I went about getting published. The short answer? By keeping my chin — and optimism — up even though I was receiving stacks of rejections every day. The long answer takes me back to a Facebook question I answered for my profile, which called for my most embarrassing moment. Unfortunately, my life is riddled with heinously embarrassing moments, and one of them occurred at a writers conference I attended in the mountains of California, where I met my agent. I’d been invited to an industry cocktail party out of the graciousness of one of the conference’s board members, and being an unpublished writer who was desperate to make a good impression, I researched the guest list, which included dozens of publishers and agents. This was my chance to wow them, I thought. And maybe snag an agent. So, I perfected my pitch. Practiced my smile. Wore a cute outfit. As ready as I’d ever be, I showed up at the party, determined and excited. And it would have been a great party had I managed to stay upright for more than thirty minutes. I can’t say what exactly caused what happened next — the high altitude, perhaps, or maybe low blood sugar, or the single sip of wine in my system — but in front of God and everyone who mattered in publishing, I fainted. As in, hit the floor face first. With my wine glass still in hand. I don’t recall the fall, but a number of revelers told me afterwards that I then did a pushup before a couple of concerned hosts helped me to a chair, brought me water, and then guided me back to my room, where I spent the rest of the night horrified and cringing. I’d never fainted before, and of all the times in the world to pass out, I couldn’t believe that my body had chosen that moment to try it out. I wrung my hands (literally), sure that I’d forever blown my chances to find an agent. I worried that publishers would think that I was a jackass at best, and a liability at worst. I fretted all night, wishing that I could turn back time and praying that there might be at least a few attendees who hadn’t witnessed my complete lack of grace. Alas, everyone heard about the fainting girl in the darling ruffled shirt.

The next morning, I spent some time apologizing to people I recognized from the night before, and my pitiful conversation with a striking woman turned into a long one about the troubles with thin mountain air, me and my book. She asked me to send her the first chapter of it, which I did as soon as I returned to Dallas, and three days later, she called to request the rest of it. The next week, she signed me on, made me change a few things in the manuscript, and then sent it out to a bunch of publishers. It went nowhere. But I began writing what would become OFF THE MENU, and after a number of rewrites, it sold to Penguin.

So, there you have it in a nutshell as to how I went about getting published. I worked really, really hard, wrote during every free second I had, learned the industry, went to several writers conferences, attended a cocktail party and then passed out. I guess the road to publishing is a bit like that — a mix of preparation and luck. It’s incredibly labor intensive, and sometimes, what seems like the worst thing in the world ends up becoming the best. Because the kicker of it all is that my agent would never have noticed me had I not caused a ruckus at the cocktail party.

You can read more about me at www.christineson.com.

Please also check out her blog. Here’s an interview with her as well, in case you want to get to know her better.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of Christine’s tour and to thank Christine for not only being a wonderful author, but also a dream to work with. I had a great time, and I hope you did as well.

Without further ado, here’s the contest:

(Remember I must have a way to contact you, so leave an email address or a blog location; if your Blogger profile is not working, I will not be able to contact you without an email)

1. What is your biggest fear (whether it is finding your place in the world or a fear of water or dying)? Leave the answer in the comments for one entry.

2. For a second entry, visit Christine’s blog and leave a comment here with something that interested you on her blog or a link to an interesting post you found.

3. For a third entry, visit the interview or FAQ on Christine’s Web site and come back here and leave me a comment about what you learned.

4. Spread the word on your blog about the contest in a sidebar or a post, and receive a fourth entry.

Deadline is November 18 at Midnight EST.

Other stops on the TLC Tour:

Saturday, November 1st: Estella’s Revenge e-zine (author interview)

Monday, November 3rd: Literarily (author guest post and giveaway!)

Wednesday, November 5th: Beastmomma (author interview)

Thursday, November 6th: Book Nut

Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf

Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf (author interview)

Monday, November 10th: Pop Culture Junkie

Tuesday, November 11th: 8Asians

Wednesday, November 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, November 13th: In The Pages

Friday, November 14th: She is Too Fond of Books

Monday, November 17th: Planet Books

Tuesday, November 18th: B & B ex Libris

Wednesday, November 19th: DISGRASIAN

Thursday, November 20th: Booking Mama

Monday, November 24th: The Literate Housewife Review

Tuesday, November 25th: Feminist Review

Wednesday, November 26th: Diary of an Eccentric