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Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Joshua Henkin‘s Matrimony is more than just about how marriage and love can withstand the test of time and the struggles each spouse faces. Julian Wainwright’s struggle as a writer to finish his novel and to juggle his marriage, life, a job, and his friends amidst his creative endeavors is central to this novel. In a way, Julian’s dedication to his art is like a marriage and it is not surprising that some of his friends and even to an extent his wife, Mia, believe that he should settle down with a “real” job.

Matrimony opens as Julian begins his tenure at Graymont College in Massachusetts and meets his first friend, Carter Heinz. Eventually through their travels they both meet, fall in love, and marry their college sweethearts, Mia and Pilar, respectively. Upon graduation, each couple makes decisions that change their lives and their relationships.

Julian moves to Ann Arbor, Mich., with his wife, Mia, who has become a graduate student in psychology. He wants to write his novel, but he finds agreeing to teach composition at the university is disheartening as it is challenge, especially in terms of the progress he makes on the novel. Carter and Pilar apply to law school in California, but eventually the pressure they place on one another and themselves crushes their marriage.

Henkin’s writing style will relax the reader and carry them along through these characters’ lives with ease, but this ease also can distance the reader from the characters. Check out this passage from page 45:

Mia’s hair was matted to her forehead; it stuck in clumps against her neck. A drop of rain rolled down her chin, and Julian brushed it off with the sleeve of his windbreaker.

They drove home soaked, as if someone had thrown them fully clothed into Boston Harbor. When they stopped at the turnpike to get their ticket, Mia twisted the water from her hair. As she drove on, Julian fell asleep to the rhythm of the car, his nose, his whole face, pressed against the window.

Although the novel’s cadence is calming, the characters are well-developed and intriguing enough to keep reading and discovering where they plan to go next. One of my favorite minor characters from the novel is center stage in Julian’s world early on–Professor Chesterfield. Julian’s professor has established his own workshop rules, including Thou Shalt Never Use Pass-the-Salt Dialogue and Thou Shalt Not Utter the Phrase “Show Don’t Tell” When Discussing One Another’s Short Stories. At one point in the class Chesterfield asks the students when it is appropriate to have characters pass the salt in a story (page 10). The answer from Julian is expected, but Carter’s answer is fantastic and sets up the tension between these two characters early on; this one scene is the foundation for their tension, competition, and friendship.

Although Julian is a writer and other writers can identify with his daily word/page count struggles, he seems dispassionate about his work, about his teaching position, and his marriage. It is only until one event shatters his image of his marriage does he become passionate enough to take bold action.

Throughout all of these struggles each character hits a wall, stumbles, revises their outlook, and moves past the initial obstacles in their way. Although this book is not fast-paced, it presents a great cast and sheds light on how love and marriage can last through a number of trials so long as the parties involved want their relationship to thrive. Julian’s evolution throughout the novel moves at a glacial pace like the progress on his novel, but the culmination of these changes is the light at the end of the tunnel. This is one book you can curl up by the fireplace with and relax.

Stay tuned for the giveaway details. . .

About the Author: (According to his Website)

Joshua Henkin’s grew up in New York City, his mother the daughter of a hat manufacturer, his father the son of a famous Orthodox rabbi who lived in the United States for fifty years and never learned any English. His mother: a secular Jew who went to Bryn Mawr College and Yale Law School. His father: a law professor at Columbia who attended Yeshiva University and fought in World War II and who has remained religiously observant. Joshua Henkin is a product of these varied backgrounds, and of this happy marriage.

Matrimony is a New York Times Notable Book, and Joshua Henkin is available for book group discussions; here’s the reading group guide. If you’re interested in checking out some updates of his recent book discussions go here and here.

Joshua Henkin has offered to giveaway an inscribed copy of Matrimony, a great holiday gift, to one winner anywhere in the world. Yes, this is an international contest.

Enter by leaving a comment here about this post to qualify for one entry. Please include an email or active blog so I can contact you for an address.

Deadline is December 21, Midnight EST

Also Reviewed By:
The Literate Housewife
The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
She is Too Fond of Books
Age 30 – A Year of Books
Books and Cooks
Reading Room
Bookfoolery and Babble
A Reader’s Journal
B&B Ex Libris
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?
Shelf Life
The Boston Bibliophile
Trish’s Reading Nook
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Confessions of a Real Librarian

Karen Harrington Interview

Earlier this month, I was checking out Scobberlotch, Karen Harrington’s blog, and she offered to guest blog for anyone interested. Karen is the author of Janeology.

I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions; questions I’ve always wanted to ask a writer and questions that are just quirky enough to get her attention and yours. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Karen to Savvy Verse & Wit and to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

1. How do writers work out to stay in shape and healthy?

As for me, I try to get up and stretch several times while I’m writing. My husband is a PA for a spine surgeon and I asked him what the best, ergonomic position for writing was, he said “The best position is the NEXT position.” This has been great advice. I also plan my housework around my writing. Vacuuming is my warm-up, believe it or not. And of course keeping up with my toddlers is like having a health-club membership. I also try and drink a lot of water during the day. I admit, I am not a super healthy eater because sometimes, when my kids are in preschool, I forget to eat altogether. When they are here, I find myself eating whatever they have left on their plates (a lot of half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.)

2. Do you find there are particular foods that make you more creative or that keep you inspired?

I don’t know if coffee is what inspires me, but I cannot imagine my day without it, so it must have some bearing on my writing. Interestingly enough, when I read a scene in a novel about a big feast and what all the characters are eating, I feel hungry and want to make a big dinner. That’s one of the reasons reading/writing is so powerful. It can influence all your senses.

3. If you were to pick a playlist for your latest writing project, what are the top five songs on that list?

Right now, I am writing a piece called Prodigal Son, which centers on a very disillusioned son of a mega-preacher. I created an ITunes playlist specifically for this book (something I do for every project.) Here’s a sample of what’s on it:

  1. Wake Up Call – Maroon 5
  2. Human Wheels – John Mellencamp
  3. Viva La Vida – Coldplay
  4. If Everyone Cared – Nickelback
  5. Over You – Daughtry

What’s funny is that if my husband hears me rockin’ any of these songs, he now knows that I’m working on Prodigal Son.


4. What rituals or steps do you use to remain confident in your writing?

Reading a lot is the best reinforcement. You read some stuff and you think, “I can do better than this.” And you read other stuff and you think, “I want to write like THIS!” As far as general confidence, that wavers a great deal. When I first completed JANEOLOGY, I had the overwhelming sense of “Hey, I’ve got something very interesting here. Something I would personally love to read.” And then, I remember the fear I had the day before my book was released. I had a moment or two where I didn’t want it to go out into the world, but then I got a few positive reviews and it eased the process. I can see a day, perhaps when I get to book 5 in my writing career where I will trust my instincts more.

5. In terms of friendships, have your friends shifted since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have they stayed the same?

I’ve never thought about this until now, but the answer is yes, I do now have more writer-ly friends just since the publication. I’ve networked with many of them through my publisher and we have built a very supportive network of sharing information and encouraging each other. Also, I’ve met several local writers as a result of MySpace. I’m thankful for this because writing can be very solitary and it’s good to meet others who know what you’re going through.


6. (Because I love this question) Can you describe your ideal writing space and how it
differs from your current writing space?

In terms of aesthetics, I have a pretty ideal space right now. My office has a huge window that looks out on our pool. There are three fountains running in the morning. I’m able to listen to the sounds and rest my eyes on the blue water. The desk and the computer could be anywhere or any kind, just so long as I have my dictionary and synonym finder nearby. I used to be a corporate speechwriter and had to write under all kinds of, um, interesting conditions in interesting situations. This experience taught me how to write anywhere, with any level of noise or distraction or screaming (which is why I can write with toddlers nearby.) One day, I would love to have this kind of space near an ocean or lake. Anything with a view of water.

Check out what else she had to say about her current writing space.

Thanks to Karen for joining us today and for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

Owen Fiddler by Marvin D. Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

On page 119:

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom through Discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

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

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

Prize and Giveaway information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks a Lot for Your Rejection by Julie Gabriel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Interested in winning a copy of The Green Beauty Guide?

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

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

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

Also Reviewed by:

She is too Fond of Books

Safelight by Shannon Burke

Shannon Burke’s Safelight is an ambitious undertaking that examines the decline of New York City and the decline of a paramedic, Frank Verbeckas. Through sparse and compelling language, dialogue, and plot points, Burke expertly immerses the reader into a series of dramatic scenes in which Verbeckas struggles to find himself amidst crime, disease, and the tragic death of his father.

Verbeckas is a paramedic and photographer, but his gift is capturing the reality that surrounds him, which in his eyes is the illness, death, and disease of the patients in crumbling New York City. His brother, Norman, is a top surgeon at a local hospital, and despite his arrogant manner and self-confidence, Norman struggles to break through his bully-like exterior to help his brother.

On page 138 of Safelight, the description used easily sums up the tumultuous relationship between Norman and Frank:

His eyes went wild. He swung with his right and hit me on the side of the mouth. I stumbled against the sink and he came in towards me. He was about four inches taller and sixty pounds heavier. I jabbed with my left but he twisted, dodged, and had me in his grip. He threw me against the wall. I went at him. He had me in his grip again. He threw me. I went at him, then stopped. We stood there, huffing and puffing in that tiny room.

The short, clipped descriptions of this fight between brothers quickly provides the reader with an inside perspective of how Frank compares himself to his brother and how they relate to one another.

Through a series of disjointed, but related paramedic scenes, the reader gains a sense of Verbeckas’ struggles and his downfall seems almost inevitable. However, meeting Emily, a professional fencer and HIV positive woman, becomes the catalyst that spurs Verbeckas’ transformation. Burke utilizes his sparse narrative to describe the stillness Frank feels in the presence of Emily (see page 134)

Her small, dark figure against the ruin, in that green pine stillness. Along an old mill there was a slow-moving stream, the water clear in the shallows but a deep, translucent copper color in the middle.

Being Burke’s first novel, the reader probably would not have noticed the recurrence of black flies, but given my recent review of Black Flies and my recent interview of Shannon Burke, I noticed the black flies made it into this first novel as well.

I also enjoyed the Burke’s descriptions of Frank’s photography and how he frames scenes in the camera’s viewfinder. As an avid photographer, these scenes were well described. Readers will appreciate the stark images and heart that permeates the narrative of Safelight. The evolution of Frank Verbeckas is swift and satisfying.

About the Author:

Shannon Burke was born in Wilmette, Illinois and went to college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He has published two novels, Safelight and Black Flies, and has been involved in various films, including work on the screenplay for the film Syriana. From the mid to late nineties he worked as a paramedic in Harlem for the New York City Fire Department. He now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Amy Billone and their two sons.

Pemberley by the Sea by Abigail Reynolds

Abigail Reynolds’ Pemberley by the Sea is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, but in modern times and with modern sensibilities. Who would have Elizabeth Bennet been in today’s world, and who would have been Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In Reynolds’ modern day romance, which is set on Cape Cod and in Pennsylvania, Dr. Cassie Boulton is a marine biologist who loves a good book so long as the ending is a happy one–because there are just too much unpleasantness in real life. In many ways Cassie and Elizabeth are both strong women with a sharp wit, but Cassie also is an accomplished career woman with serious ambitions and a dangerous past. One of my favorite scenes is when she and Calder are in a charming bookstore and he has merely followed her around and not said much (from pg. 29).

She paid for her purchase, and said good-bye to Ed, and then turned back to Calder. He held a book in his hand now but was still looking at her with disturbing intensity. She smiled with apparent sweetness at him and said cheekily, “Lovely chatting with you, Calder. We’ll have to do this again some time.” She made a quick exit, leaving the bells on the door jingling behind her.

The tension here is palatable, and it remains so throughout the novel, and Reynolds does a great job showing and creating sexual tension, charisma, and release between these characters.

Calder Westing III is the son of a rich, Republican, and southern political family. Like Mr. Darcy, Calder Westing is the consummate blue blood with his chiseled features, highbrow manners, and cool temperament, but passion runs deep beneath the veneer as does his loyalty and vulnerability.

Their summer romance hits them hard and fast, but it quickly fades into the background as each deals with the unpleasantness of their every day lives and the qualms they have about fitting into one another’s world. Calder fights for his love through an adaptation of Cassie’s favorite novel, while Cassie has to fight her basic instinct to flee when harsh times approach. She manages to overcome her innate, biological responses and confides in Calder, trusting that they can work through anything together.

Not only are we thrust into their romance, but the reader is introduced to Erin (i.e. Jane Bennet) and Scott (i.e. Mr. Bingley), whose romance falls off track and only rights itself on its own, not as cleanly as it happens in Austen’s novel. Caro, Calder’s mother, is another fascinating character, along with the Jim, Cassie’s mentor, and Dave Crowley, attorney and long-time friend of Calder’s family and Cassie. Joe, Calder’s father, is a force to be reckoned with, and the tension in the novel becomes almost stifling when he enters a scene. There is a wide range of supporting characters in this novel, and each has a significant role to play, which makes this more than just an Austen do-over.

Not only has Reynolds eloquently captured the tension between the characters and developed their relationships believably throughout the 400+ page novel, she has taken the time to put the reader in Woods Hole with her descriptions. It was like taking a vacation and getting lost on the seaside or in the marsh. Check out this description from pg. 422.

Cassie stood on the beach in front of the house, her arms wrapped around herself. Finally some peace and quiet. A cool breeze blew in over Buzzard’s Bay, whipping up whitecaps that broke on the shore, coming closer and closer to her feet as the tide came in. Around her lay the flotsam of the last high tide, strands of seaweed, broken shells, and here and there an empty shark egg case. Mermaids’ purses–that was what children called the egg cases when they discovered them on the beach. A used-up dead shell that once protected a baby dogfish or skate, and now it would be a child’s treasure.

Not only do the descriptions do justice to the setting and put the reader in the midst of the scene with the characters, they serve to put the reader in the characters’ minds. What is Cassie thinking? How is Cassie reacting? In some cases, the scenes serve to foreshadow upcoming events, feelings, and trials, but in others the scenes symbolize overarching themes in the text.

From the beginning to the end, this is an engrossing novel that takes the reader on a deep ride into the romance and struggles of these two characters. They are memorable, and I was sad to see them go. I hope we hear more from these characters. In terms of Jane Austen spin offs and redos, this is one of the best and could even stand on its own without the references to Pride & Prejudice, which is a clear testament to Reynolds’ talent as a writer.

I want to thank Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks for sending me this novel to review.

Also Reviewed By:
Jackets & Covers

***Reminder***

Don’t forget my contest for the writing guide Grit for the Oyster. You have two chances to enter: the review and the guest post

Deadline is December 1, Midnight EST.

Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers

Thanks to the authors–Suzanne Woods Fisher, Debora M. Coty, Faith Tibbetts McDonald, and Joanna Bloss–of Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers and Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me this inspirational writing guide for amateur writers.

This book meshes scripture from the Bible with inspirational quotes from published authors and writers as well as questions writers should ask themselves about their own writing and writing careers. I would equate this book to a writer’s devotional. It is broken down into a sometimes personal or inspirational story from the author of each section, a prayer fashioned for writers, a reflection, and a set of quotes from authors, publishers, agents, and others.

There are several references to Anne Lamont, author of Bird by Bird, and other published authors.

A couple of prominent tips in the beginning pages of this book include

1. Outlining the three steps amateur writers can take to become more qualified at their own craft.

2. Seek inspiration in the ordinary world and among ordinary people.

In “No More Detours,” Joanna Bloss has some great tips for writers who have ADD, or the inability to focus on one project at a time. Rather than write like type-A personality writers who have set numbers of words to write per day, Bloss recommends ADD writers work on more than one piece of writing at a time and gradually finishing each one by the deadline. Learn to prepare the writing space first, ridding the atmosphere of noises and tasks that are unfinished. Writers also should remember to connect with other writers and hold one another comfortable. (pg. 29)

Here’s a sample quote from this section from author Kristin Billerbeck:

“Now get busy, go write and quit making excuses. A badly finished manuscript can be fixed. A blank sheet of paper? Not so much.” (pg. 31)

My caveat to this would be that a blank sheet of paper can be remedied as well, you simply have to write!

In “Will Work for Words” by Debora Coty, there is some great advice about writing on a freelance basis for money. I will share this quote with you: “Do not be squelched by low pay rates. View nothing as beneath you, and consider each publishing experience as a step up to the next level.” (pg. 35)

Section one of the book is a vast outline of how to start writing and remain motivated as a beginning writer. For me this section of the book was a bit long, but other writers may need this kind of motivational pep talk. The nuggets of information in this section are helpful for Christian writers as well as those of other faiths.

There are some sections of this book that preached to the reader about the righteous path of writing, which could limit the outreach potential for this book. Writing is a way to express oneself and to say that writing about sex in romance novels is not the right path is to limit that self expression. In this respect, this writer’s guide falls short for me.

However, some of the tips on how to remain motivated and inspired are eye-opening. For instance, Joanna Bloss indicates that some writers are more productive at certain times than others, but what they accomplish in their off-times is as equally important as what they accomplish when their writing productivity is high. Most importantly, Debora Coty suggests each writer take a Cyber Sabbath or time away from writing and the computer to provide balance to his/her life. I agree, without time away, how will you gain perspective on what you’ve already written? How will you have gained new experiences to supplement and breath life into your writing? You can’t. Take a break. Breathe in the fresh air, then get back to work.

Interested in Grit for the Oyster? Want to win a copy? Feel free to leave a comment about this review and why you want to read this book or discuss your biggest fears as a blogger and/or writer. Deadline is November 30; Randomizer.org will choose a winner for December 1.


Check out some announcements I made on Sunday!

Cold Rock River by J.L. Miles

J.L. Miles’ Cold Rock River flows in and out of the past and present of Adie Thacker’s life and occasionally transports the reader into the thicket of plantations and slavery near the time of the Civil War. The reader travels along the current of Cold Rock River and hits some brisk rapids and undercurrents, following Adie on her journey.

When Adie is a child, her family is the picture of happiness, minus the normal angst among siblings and boy troubles. However, one day their family changes irrevocably. Her father drinks himself into a stupor, while her mother withdraws from her children and her husband. Rebecca, Adie’s older sister, falls in love, becomes a mother, and moves out on her own. Clarissa, Rebecca’s twin, is the sweetest of the sisters and wallows in food to shut out the pain. Although this story is about her family and how it evolves after a significant loss, the novel also is about family secrets and how those secrets eat up Adie and the family.

This beautiful image in Chapter Seventeen, page 162, holds a vast symbolic meaning in relation to this family’s struggles and its one of my favorites:

Hog Gap and Cold Rock still had the mountain between them with no road cutting through. The only way to get from one spot to the other was to take the two-lane highway that ran around it. In the distance, Cold Rock Mountain rested like a fat king on his throne. The sides sparkled like jewels as the sun bounced off chunks of granite embedded along the edges.

Another of my favorite passages in this book is in Chapter Three, on page 33-34, shortly after Adie’s mother becomes infatuated with Jackie Kennedy and her husband:

Mama was especially crazy about the pillbox hats Jackie wore. “Not every woman can wear them, you know,” she said. “Takes a certain bone structure.” Whatever type that was, Mama figured she had it. Every one of the dresses she made had its own matching pillbox hat, but they didn’t look much like Jackie’s. Mama used Pa’s baseball caps as a base. She cut the bills off and covered what was left in whatever fabric she was working on at the time.

Adie is a bit tough to take at first with her disjointed narrative, but eventually her ramblings endear her to the reader. She struggles as a new wife and mother, particularly when she realizes her husband, Buck, is not as in love with her as she is with him and that his mother, Verna, has secrets of her own and hopes Adie will fail.

Miles easily weaves in the slave narrative of Tempe Jordan into Adie’s story. Although these stories parallel one another in some ways, the stories shed light on the strength these women share. This is one of those novels that will stay with the reader once the last page is read, and it is now one of my top 5 books from this year.

About Author J.L. Miles:

J.L. Miles, (Jackie Lee) a resident of Georgia for thirty years, hails from Wisconsin via South Dakota. She considers herself “a northern girl with a southern heart”. Miles resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and Cape Canaveral, Florida, along with her husband Robert, where she is a featured speaker at book clubs, local schools, and writer’s workshops.


Check back tomorrow for J.L. Miles’ Guest Post about the Best-Seller Blues.

Thanks you to J.L. Miles for providing me with a copy of her book, and to Dorothy Thompson for allowing me to host this Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tour.


Also Reviewed by:

The Friendly Book Nook

Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach

Richard Roach’s Scattered Leaves follows the quest of Ben McCord, an oilman, to find the man who killed his young wife. McCord is a man on a mission, and his negative view of the world permeates the novel. The one light in his life, his wife June, is gone.

Like many of the James Patterson crime fiction novels I’ve read in the past, there is a vast conspiracy behind the death of McCord’s wife. However, some of the police procedure and gun purchasing details were unrealistic and could distract seasoned mystery readers.

On the other hand, the fast-paced plot will carry the reader quickly through the twists and turns. In some cases the reader may wonder how McCord ends up where he does, which is expected given that the novel is told from McCord’s point of view. Some of these plot twists seem outlandish and not well constructed, and the logic McCord uses to deduce his next course of action is shaky at best. However, McCord’s shaky logic is one of his character flaws, and it is this flaw that unwittingly propels him into unlikely situations and that fuels the fire propelling him to find his wife’s killer. The novel takes the reader on a journey from the Oklahoma oil fields to Texas and through Kansas, Colorado, and near the Mexican border.

One of my favorite characters in the novel is an older, hired assassin who gets the drop on McCord as he makes his way home, shooting into his moving car from the woods. This assassin is brash and had me giggling during the exchange he had with McCord in the woods after the attack. Richard Roach has a way with dry humor, which is used to ease the tension in some cases.

According to Richard Roach, Knock ’em down and drag ’em out is more McCord’s style. But, he’s honest, forthright, and oh so tender with the ladies.” Reading this book, you can tell that McCord is rough around the edges, but he’s looking to keep his tender side on the surface more often. About midway through the novel, the action gets more intense and Dr. Pettijohn is thrust into the action in a harsh way and plays an integral role in its ultimate resolution. At times this novel seemed to tell McCord’s emotions rather than show them, and some of the plot points were not necessary to propel the action, both of which could distract readers. However, in spite of these problems with narration and plot, Richard Roach’s first novel is fast-paced and has an imaginative style that will keep you reading.

About the Author:

Born in Galveston, Texas, Richard Roach served four years in USAF as drill sergeant. He attended the University of Texas. Short stories have been published in Man’s Story 2, Happy 2007 volume 20, page 58, Iconoclast 2006 volume 91, page 73, and Bibliophilos 2006 volume 42, page 54. His first novel, Scattered Leaves, hit the book stores n September 2008. His second novel, Scattered Money, will be published by Multi-Media in 2009.

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending along Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach.

If you’re interested in Scattered Leaves, feel free to leave a comment.

Randomizer.org will help me choose a winner.

You have until November 21 to enter.

Stop Back tomorrow for my Q&A with Richard Roach!

Also Reviewed By:
Peeking Between the Pages

The Sighing of the Winter Trees by Laura Grossman

Laura Grossman’s The Sighing of the Winter Trees is a collection of poems I received from Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Following my review, you will have a chance to see what the poet had to say in an interview and a chance to win one copy of her book.

Grossman uses familiar images to tackle loss, love, and many of the emotions we feel. Her sparse language and short poems attempt to evoke emotion from the reader without relying upon complex lines, concepts, or too many literary devices.

Many of her poems have a conversational tone, as if she is speaking directly to the reader. This tone can generate a warmth in the reader, like it does in her poem, “Waiting Warmly Beside Orange Flowers,” or it can evoke sadness, like that found in “Wait, Wait I’ll Be Back.”

Some of these poems tell stories, but those stories leave the reader hanging, waiting for a resolution. Others simply confuse the reader, like “Wooden Ship.” Although I was not overly impressed by this volume, it does have a lot to offer the “everyman” and parents may find some poems in this volume to help introduce their children to poetry. Readers looking for poems that are less daunting than those read during high school or college will discover verses in this volume that will tap their hidden love of poetry.

My Interview With Laura Grossman:


When did you realize you wanted to be a poet? Was there a particular event that started you writing poetry?

I realized I wanted to be a poet when I was a child and I loved describing the winter days in a form of a haiku. The particular event that started me in writing poetry was after my father died and the professor at college had me read a stanza that captured the way I felt about the death of my dad. Suddenly there was beauty and meaning in the way I felt about my late dad.

Is The Sighing of the Winter Trees your first published book of poetry? Could you describe your path to publication?

The Sighing of the Winter Trees is my first published book of poetry. I took books out on how to achieve my goal of getting published and that helped my path to publication.

Do you have a set routine or do you write when the mood or inspiration hits?

I usually write when the mood or inspiration hits.

What are your favorite poetic forms? And are those forms that you find yourself using the most?

My favorite forms of poetry are haiku and rhythmic and I use those forms quite often.

As a poet can you describe your role in the current literary world and what you see your poetry accomplishing for yourself, readers, and other poets?

I describe my role as a poet to bear meaning and shed light to others about the world in which we live. I also use my writing skills as a way of making lemonade out of lemons until the sun come out again into my life and my readers’ lives as well.

How do you view the current state of poetry in terms of public recognition?

There should be more public recognition of poetry for poetry can heal and sooth us and leave a positive impact on our lives.

Could you describe your favorite writing space?

My favorite writing space is by my fall mums by the window in early morning hours.

Do you have any favorite poets, and if so, why?

Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet. Her words touch my heart with wonder.

What are you currently reading and do you have any particular book recommendations?

I am currently reading The Flowering by Agnes Sligh Turnbull and would greatly recommend this book to others.

****

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson for sending me Laura Grossman’s book and for allowing me to interview her for this post. I also want to thank Laura for taking time out of her schedule to answer my questions.

For the inside scoop on how Laura Grossman got her volume published, check out this article at Book Publishing Secrets of Authors.

About the Author:

Laura Grossman graduated from Lehman College with a degree in English literature and won several awards from poetry contests. She has attended poetry readings and has enjoyed positive feedback on her work.

And now, for the contest; This is open to international entrants as always.

1. Leave a comment on this post with an email or a blogger profile that works for one entry.

2. Put this contest in your sidebar or in a blog post for a second entry and leave me a link to it on this post.

Deadline is Nov. 17. I will draw the winner through Randomizer.org.

Also Reviewed By:
Cafe of Dreams

Contest Reminders:

Want to win a copy of Off the Menu by Christine Son, go here; Deadline is Nov. 18

Win a copy of Karen White’s The House on Tradd Street here; Deadline is Nov.14

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

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

Karen White‘s The House on Tradd Street is part romance, part ghost story, part mystery. The narration of this novel grips the reader with its beautiful descriptions of South Carolina and the historic neighborhoods of Charleston. Melanie Middleton specializes in historic home sales, though she hates historic homes and believes those who buy historic homes are saps willing to waste thousands of dollars on renovations. Fate brings her into the home of Mr. Vanderhorst, who asks Melanie if she saw a woman in the garden. Days later, he suddenly dies and leaves her his home.

Melanie is given a historic home and the money to renovate and repair it as part of the Vanderhorst estate. There are a great cast of characters in this book from Mr. Vanderhorst to his mother’s ghost and Melanie, her father, and Jack Trenholm. Melanie is a barracuda in the real estate world, but her inability to relate to her family or male companions hampers her ability to widen her horizons. She’s a strong character in spite of these weaknesses. Meanwhile, Jack uses his good looks and fame to woo women to his side and charm them out of information so he can uncover historical mysteries and publish books. His charm and good looks are just a cover.

The restoration at Tradd Street begins, and Melanie is overwhelmed by her responsibilities and the two attractive men that have fallen into her life–Marc Longo and Jack Trenholm. In spite of the restoration, Melanie gets wrapped up in the mystery surrounding Mr. Vanderhorst’s mother’s disappearance and the ghosts that haunt her new home.

White easily draws the reader into the beauty of Charleston and her ghost mystery. The intricate relationships between these characters are complex, and in spite of the convenient connections between Melanie’s family, the Vanderhorsts, and the Trenholms in a big city like Charleston, I was enveloped in the storyline.

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the novel (page 130):

“I was so relieved to see him that I didn’t waste any time asking him what in the hell he was talking about. I threw back the dead bolt and disarmed the alarm before pulling open the door and launching myself at him.

‘Wow, Mellie–it’s good to see you too. But could you wait until I got my clothes off first?'”

The mystery doesn’t get heavy with humor like this sprinkled in. The interactions between Melanie and Jack are contagious and will make readers smile.

I recommend this book to those who love a good mystery and a good ghost story. Stay tuned tomorrow for Karen White’s guest post on the writing and publishing process.

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

1. Please leave a comment on this post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on tomorrow’s guest post for a second entry.

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

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me The House on Tradd Street.

Also Reviewed By:

Musings of a Bookish Kitty
S. Krishna’s Books
The Book Czar
Library Queue
Diary of an Eccentric
In Bed With Books
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
The Book Connection
Cafe of Dreams