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Dear Anais by Diana Raab

I received Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You by Diana M. Raab from the author for review, I’m thrilled to say that Raab’s use of language in a format that resembles diary entries is fantastic. The volume begins with a letter to Anaïs about how she inspired Raab through her journals, particularly Anaïs’ entries about the house Eric Lloyd Wright built for her.

Each poem provides the reader with an insider’s look at Raab’s life and her interactions with family and others. Mirroring Anaïs Nin’s style, Raab seeks to demonstrate how important love is to humanity and how important it is to maintain our connections to one another.

Here’s her poem, “Weekly Lottery“:

Giving into his obsessions
was one thing my father did
almost every day of his life
for the fifty years which
he lived after The Holocaust
which robbed him of his parents
and baby brother Josh, putting
he and his brother in Dachau’s
kitchen, slicing potatoes and
saving friends from starvation
as the Nazis dined off Rosenthal
plates confiscated from Jews
tossed into frigid barracks and
stripped of everything ever
important to them.

Dad’s first treat, after arriving
in the United States with his brother Bob,
was using his factory paycheck for
a weekly lottery ticket, awaiting
the easy windfall, a sham of
good fortune, as if winning
the lottery was a ticket for
a new freedom boat. His
bliss stretched to winning five
tickets, five more scratches of
horizontal square boxes with
the same 1945 nickel which
he always carried in his pocket
for good luck, maybe not
enough cents to keep the
inveterate smoker alive past 70.

Raab’s poetry is detailed, vivid, and critical of its own subject matter and the narrator’s voice is often ironic in the final stanza or lines, reminding readers of how haiku can shed light on the most mundane of natural circumstances. In this poem, “Weekly Lottery,” Raab uses short lines and long sentences to build momentum, which invariably builds suspense for the reader.

Poems about the holocaust and WWII and war in general often attract my attention, which is probably why this poem has stuck with me since I first read Dear Anaïs. And I’ve already read through this book several times. There are a number of poems in here about Raab’s relatives and their dealings with war and the concentration camps.

This is an enjoyable collection of contemporary poems for every reader. Readers can connect with Raab through her poetry, including the hardship of loss and the nuances of daily living. Writers will enjoy her poems that deal with the writing process such as “Sketch of a Writer’s Studio” and “Sheets.” My personal favorite in this section was “On Demand,” which is about much more than just writing poems upon request.

About the Poet:

Diana M. Raab, MFA is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She teaches memoir, journaling and poetry in the UCLA Writers Program and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She also narrates and teaches workshops around the country.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As an only child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. In university she studied journalism, health administration and nursing, all serving as platforms for her years as a medical and self-help writer.

Raab’s memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal (2007) won the National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir and was the recipient of many other honors.

Raab’s work has been published in numerous literary magazines and has been widely anthologized. She has one poetry chapbook, My Muse Undresses Me and one poetry collection, Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You (2008).

She’s editor of a forthcoming anthology, Writers and Their Notebooks (USC Press, 2009) which is a collection of essays written by well-known writers who journal, including Sue Grafton, Kim Stafford, Dorianne Laux, John DuFresne, James Brown and Michael Steinberg, to name a few. The foreword is written by the world-renowned personal essayist, Phillip Lopate.

Stay Tuned for my Interview with Diana, tomorrow March 12.

And now, for the giveaway information: (3 Winners)

Diana has graciously offered one copy of Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You and 2 copies of her chapbook My Muse Undresses Me.

1. Leave a comment about what inspired you to give this collection a try.
2. Tune in tomorrow and comment on my interview with Diana

Deadline is March 18, 5PM EST.

Randomizer.org will select the three winners; the first number selected will win Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You.




THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!

***Another Giveaway***

Check out this link to win a copy of Mr & Mrs Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan.

***In Other News***

Savvy Verse & Wit has a spotlight guest post up at She Is Too Fond of Books; Check out my bookstore spotlight about Politics & Prose.

City Above the Sea and Other Poems by Stephen Alan Saft

City Above the Sea and Other Poems by Stephen Alan Saft is the poet’s third book of poems, which I received through Bostick Communications. Saft’s preface will provide readers with insight into his background and possible influences. He discusses the different types of poems found in the volume. Some of the poems were previously performed with live music.

The title poem, “City Above the Sea,” paints a vivid picture of this future-like city with glass towers and green vines hanging. The A-A-B-B rhyme scheme of the poem is not as distracting as other rhyming poems are because the images are so vivid and transport the reader into this technologically efficient world. The poem touts the benefits of technology in creating electric cars and other less polluting tools and devices, but in stanza 10 the mood changes. In a way, the poem preaches to the reader about the need of society to save humanity.

“Population grows. Suburbs intrude on the land of the cow/Where once the farmer tilled with tractor and plow/How will we feed ourselves when out numbers double?/Meanwhile the sea rises putting other land in trouble//” (Page 15, Stanza 11)

Saft’s romantic nature comes to light in “The Cucumber Plant to the Sun,” as he weaves images of a growing plant reaching for the sun begging to be that same sun’s only love. This poem will make readers smile as they see the plant growing in the nurturing light and unfurling its tendrils.

Saft’s use of language in “Tomatoes” reminds me of so many of my favorite, yet poignant, poems in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s book A Coney Island of the Mind. There is a great deal of alliteration in this poem, but there is much more going on in it. It has a primal nature that readers must discover.

Whether the verse is free or rhyming, Saft skillfully paints a vivid picture or narrative through which he cracks open the underbelly of reality and the beauty inherent in that reality. Readers will enjoy his fresh images and innovative language.

Also Reviewed By:
Puss Reboots
Never Without a Book
Considering All Things Literary

About the Poet:

Stephen Alan Saft, also known as S.A. Saft, is a writer of essays, novels, plays and poetry. As a poet, Saft has written over a hundred poems, many of which he has presented in public readings. Saft’s poetry is a combination of blank verse, free verse and rhyming pieces, some of which were written to be performed with music. Saft has given poetry readings in Virginia, Maine, Vermont, California, Texas, New Jersey, New York, and Washington DC, in some cases to the accompaniment of a jazz band.

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.

The Sinner’s Guide to Confession by Phyllis Schieber

Nikki Leigh contacted me about hosting Phyllis Schieber and her novel, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, and I was pleased to do so. Stay tuned for information about how you can win your own copy of The Sinner’s Guide to Confession.

The novel is follows longtime friends Kaye and Barbara, who are now in their fifties. Kaye and Barbara soon make friends with Ellen, who is several years younger, but their friendship solidifies and becomes close-knit. The three women are inseparable, but each nurtures a secret.

The alternating narrators for the chapters keeps the reader guessing as to when the friends will break down all of the walls between them and share their deepest secrets. From a romance novelist hiding her alternate career as an erotica writer to a married woman having a long-term, passionate affair. Readers will appreciate the perspective Justine, Barbara’s daughter, provides to Kaye and Barbara’s relationship. The friendship between these women is long standing and much of the story focuses on their relationships with one another as well as their relationships with the men in their lives. The novel may be considered an older woman’s chicklit book, but it has more substance.

Of the three women, Ellen’s story was the most heart-wrenching and deeply moving. Readers learn early on about Ellen’s secret, but as her chapters unfold, the devastation of one decision she makes early on in her life has significant impact on how her life unfolds. Ellen’s decision establishes her reactions and interactions with others, her husband, and her friends. It’s amazing how a decision not completely in her control molded her into the woman readers see in the beginning pages of this novel. Ellen is afraid of making decisions, hides behind the confidence brought by her false eyelashes, and holds deep grudges against her parents.

The intricate relationships between these characters are intense, and the relationships with each family member provides a realistic glimpse into the dynamics of family. Each member plays a specific role in how the family operates, and these women are central to those families.

About the Author Phyllis Schieber:

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher and as a learning disabilities specialist. My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam. In March 2009, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

Giveaway Details:

Win A Free Book from Phyllis Schieber – Its very easy to be entered in a drawing for a FREE book by Phyllis Schieber.

Post comments on any blogs during the virtual tour and you will have a chance to win a book from Phyllis.

One random person will win – but we are also asking visitors to share a secret and one secret will also win a free book. As a bonus the blog owner that hosted the winning comments will also win a book.

Share some interesting stories and questions with Phyllis Schieber during her tour – and have a chance to win a book.

Schieber’s Virtual Tour Stops

Reading Guide for Sinner’s Guide to Confession

***Also stop by Tomorrow, Jan. 21, for my interview with Phyllis Schieber***

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

Cross Country by James Patterson

Miriam at Hatchette Group sent Cross Country by James Patterson for my review. However, while I’ve been an avid James Patterson reader for some time, I decided to have the biggest James Patterson fan I know review it. My mom, Pat, offered to review the book for me. I’m sure my review will follow sometime in 2009.

About the book (from Amazon.com):

In this 14th Alex Cross thriller, Cross, a Washington, D.C., police detective, takes on a very different quarry—a human monster known as the Tiger with ties to the African underworld. When the Tiger and his teenage thugs butcher writer Ellie Cox, her husband and children in their Georgetown home, Cross is devastated because Ellie had been his girlfriend in college. The Cox family massacre proves to be just the first in a series. Cross pursues the Tiger to Nigeria, where the profiler finds himself at the mercy of corrupt government officials who may be working with the Tiger.

Here’s what Pat had to say about the latest in the Alex Cross Series:

James Patterson’s Cross Country is a page turner from beginning to end.

Alex Cross and Brianna Stone are called to a horrific crime scene, one of the worst murder scenes Cross has encountered in his entire D.C. police career. Families are brutally murdered in their homes. One scene involves Cross’ ex-girlfriend Ellie Randall Cox and her family, and the death of the entire family. Ellie was a reporter who uncovered a series of brutal murders happening both in the United States and Nigeria, Africa.

Cross ends up in Africa on the trail of a notorious killer, Tiger, and his boy killers. From the moment Cross sets foot in Nigeria, he is kidnapped, beaten, and shot at. The fast-paced style that Patterson has cornered the market on continues in this latest Alex Cross story. Everyone Cross comes in contact with is dying or in danger, and eventually, Tiger follows Cross back to Washington, D.C.

This book is fantastic, and I would rate it with 5 stars. It will keep readers glued to the page until they are finished. This is one of the better books in the Cross series, and setting a portion of the tale in Africa was unique and believable.

***Don’t forget about the Gods Behaving Badly Contest, which runs through January 5 at Midnight EST.***

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Marie PhillipsGods Behaving Badly is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. What would the ancient gods of Greece and Rome do in today’s 21st Century world? Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, a phone sex operator; Apollo, the God of the Sun, a television psychic; Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and Chastity, a dog walker.

The gods have weakened since their days on high at Mt. Olympus, and they are all crammed into a dilapidated home in London, getting on one another’s nerves. The conflict truly begins one night during a taping of Apollo’s psychic show where Eros shoots a love arrow into Apollo’s heart, leaving him powerless against his love for the next person entering his view. Unfortunately, that person happens to be a mortal named, Alice, who cleans the theater where the show is taped. Alice and her friend Neil, who both love one another but are too afraid to make a move, become the center of conflict in the gods’ world.

What has been fascinating about the Greek and Roman gods for many centuries has been their human-like qualities. While they are powerful beings ruling over the human world, they are much like the average mortal in their desires, weaknesses, and arrogance. Phillips easily highlights the human-like failings of these gods and accentuates those failings with “unlikely” professions for them in the modern world.

Watching these gods cope with the 21st Century is a hilarious delight, but even more delightful is Phillips’ use of language. From Aphrodite’s bottom “bouncing like two hard-boiled eggs dancing a tango” (page 89) to Phillips’ description of Neil as a teenager, “an ugly, spotty, skinny-arsed spoddy minger” (page 88). The dialogue is witty as well: “‘. . .you’d better come quick. I’ve got a god passed out on my kitchen floor and I think the world’s about to end.’ (page 213).”

One of the best scenes in this book comes when Apollo finds Zeus in the upper floors of the house staring at the television much like a zombie would. He’s lifeless, but still a god able to stand on his own and still strike down mortals with lightning. Reading this section brought to life the dilemma that often faces many of us, do we unwind too often in front of the television rather than through more challenging activities, like games, competition, reading, and exercise? Is this section a commentary on the lives we continue to lead now, watching television, zoning out, and withdrawing into ourselves away from society. But, I digress.

With an interesting cast of characters from a Christian Eros to a drunk, DJ in Dionysus, Phillips uses her cast of characters to dramatically set the stage for a modern day Greek comedy of errors and missed chances. Even readers who do not have a firm background in mythology will enjoy this book.

If you think this book sounds interesting, you should check out Hachette Group’s discussion with the author, Marie Phillips, on Blog Talk Radio.

***Contest***

Hatchette Group offered to give away 5 copies of the book to my readers with U.S. and Canadian addresses only.

For those international readers, I am offering my gently used copy, so please inform me that you are an international entrant.

For one entry, leave a comment here telling me who your favorite Greek/Roman god/goddess is and why.

For a second entry, blog about the contest or place it in your sidebar and leave a comment here telling me where I can find it.

Deadline is January 5, Midnight EST.

Check out these other Reviews:
Booking Mama
Books Books and more Books!
Diary of an Eccentric
Book-a-Rama
A Reader’s Respite
Booklorn
The 3R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Sophisticated Dorkiness
A Life in Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Fizzy Thoughts
The Boston Bibliophile
A Novel Menagerie
As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves

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.***

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

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

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