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Showing topics in Cara's Cabinet of Themes and Curiosities, Novel Writing Advice Videos - Who Has it Right?, Crime Reads - Suspense, Thrillers, Crime, Gun!, Writer Unboxed - The "Connect Kitty" Approves, The Fantasy Hive - A U.K. Wonderland, Women on Writing - WOW and WOW!, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and The Paris Review - A Literary Wonderland posted in for the last 365 days.

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  1. Today
  2. I see you, word nerds. I know who you are. You’re the ones who can’t drive by a billboard with a grammar mistake (“In a class of it’s own”) without visibly cringing. Who have memes like this as your screen saver. Who keep Dreyer’s English in your nightstand and regularly reread and analyze passages like it’s the King James Bible. I see you, and I feel you. As an editor I may or may not derive an inordinate amount of amusement from malapropisms, dangling modifiers, quotation marks misused for emphasis that call the author’s “authority” into question, and comically clumsily translated signs like these…but I know I am not alone. A few posts ago I wrote about words you’re probably using wrong, and from the comments it seemed to hit a chord with my fellow word nerds, so here’s another ridiculous helping of word nerdery to delight you, enlighten you, and perhaps let you bask in superiority, chortling at those poor benighted fools who violate the vernacular. (Spoiler, though—judging from my 15 years at the beginning of my editing career as a Big Six copyeditor, that’s most of us at some time or another.) Misusing our language commits a cardinal sin of writing, which is to muddy your intentions and the readers’ experience of your story. Knowing how to use the main tool of our business, language, allows you to be a more effective storyteller. So with that lofty goal in mind…let’s get down and nerdy with it. Picking Apart Parts of Speech You don’t “feel badly” for someone, unless you’re trying to have a feeling for them and you just can’t swing it; you simply feel bad for them. (Probably because of their substandard grammar, I’m betting.) And you don’t cap a list of progressively important things with “most importantly,” unless you’re saying it with the air of a self-satisfied douchebag—it’s just “most important.” I might wonder hopefully if you already knew that, but I wouldn’t write “Hopefully you knew that” unless I’m referring to the optimistic quality of your knowing. Something can be “on top of” something else, or “over it,” or even “over-the-top” (as this post, in fact, could be accused of being), but not “overtop” unless you’re using it as a colloquialism in a character’s point of view. “Overtop” is not a preposition, any more than “underbottom” or “throughmiddle” are. While we’re on the topic, “any more” referring to quantity should be two words, not one, in usages such as the last sentence. “Anymore” is only for time, despite that for some philistines these usages are supposedly interchangeable (but never supposably). My examples have taken a turn for the worse—which is a worst-case scenario for some readers, if worse comes to worst. If you haven’t as yet tuned out (never “as of yet”—but you already knew that, didn’t you?), let’s move on to other troubling misusages. Fallacious phraseology If you’re offering someone an ARC of your book, it’s an advance copy, not an advanced one (unless you are distinguishing it from a remedial edition you give to your less erudite friends). If you’re letting it all hang out you’re buck naked, not butt naked (no matter how intuitive the latter may seem, given the fundamental involvement of one’s derriere). And no judgments if you do like to get nakey­ on the regular—that’s perfectly all right (but never alright). Less refers to number; fewer to amount. For that matter, “number” delineates the numeric quantity of something, and “amount” its volume. By this time, though, maybe you couldn’t care less (not “fewer,” of course)—not “could care less,” because if you can still care even less than you already do, there’s work to be done yet in getting you good and fed up. If you’re lousy with cash, you may be flush, but you’re flushed only if you’re also feeling embarrassed about it, or overheated from earning it. (Or if the school bully has shoved your head into the toilet to take it from you.) On that note, you may flush out something from your eye, but if you’re expanding on a topic (such as flushing), then you’re fleshing it out—even though that sounds like the scene of a grisly murder (but not a gristly one, unless the corpse is also quite tough to the tooth). That might land you in dire straits (not straights, unless you’re around a bunch of nihilistic heterosexuals). I’ve taken a tortuous route to arrive at some of these metaphors…which might be feeling torturous to some of you. So shall we move on to a final lightning round? Pesky Peccadilloes If you’re a charmingly innocent little naïf, you may be ingenuous, but if you’re only pretending to be, then you’re being disingenuous. If you see something shaking, it may be quivering; but if you hear it, it’s quavering. Your lover may be discrete from your spouse, but if so for the love of matrimony be discreet about it (unless you’ve given each other free rein to roam—not reign). If you’re annoyed that your climbing partner is flagging before you reach the summit, you might feel a fit of pique if you take a peek up at the peak. Your QAnon uncle’s ridiculous jive talk about conspiracy theories may not jibe with the facts, but your harsh teasing about it is a gibe (and your taunt might draw the tension taut). A finicky artist who likes to create his paintings from a crude makeshift bed (or flat shipping container) is a painter with a delicate palate using a palette on his pallet. If you’re still enjoying this pedantic nonsense, then perhaps I’ll continue to add to this series I started with the previous post I alluded to (but I didn’t elude it unless I ran away from it and it couldn’t find me again). It’s not an illusion—that last allusion was a bit of a stretch. I hope this silliness has left you amused…but if I’ve simply left you lost in confusion you’re bemused. All right, my grammar geeks, you’re up! Let’s hear your favorite vexations of verbiage. [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  3. This HaBO is from Karin, who is looking for this book: This was set in the 1800s. A well-bred young woman is courted by a charismatic guy. She marries him (Alex??) and they go West where he has some kind of land or mining investment. He dies somehow and she finds out that he was married or involved with a woman on the frontier and has a baby. She later falls in love with a much more stoic guy. I think it was written in the 1980s or earlier. My library copy had a red cloth cover. No picture. Not a steamy romance. Yikes on bikes. View the full article
  4. One blue-sky day this past September, I stood at the edge of the Mer de Glace in Montenvers, above Chamonix. I had hiked there along the Balcon du Nord to meet my husband for coffee. Together, we gazed out at the glacier’s dirt-grayed surface cracked throughout with crevasses and stitched with snow bridges. I told him that the Mer de Glace appears in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, when the creature challenges Frankenstein’s moral obligation to the being he has brought into the world. We joked that we knew a bit about complicated bonds and obligations now, fresh from our recent experience of glacier climbing not far from where we stood. We had just completed a trip whose mission had been to reach the summit of Mont Blanc. But the climate-affected route had become more risky and more technical than our group of climbers was ready for, and so our guides had switched our objective to Monte Rosa. There, as on an earlier training climb, we were turned back by weather, facing dangerously high winds on one climb and lightning on the other. Now, with the trip behind us, my husband and I drank our coffees and wrestled with the frustration of having reached no summit, despite knowing the guides had made the right decisions. I had been so restless with disappointment I had launched myself into the eight-mile round trip at near-running pace, simply to remember I could move with purpose in the mountains. As I looked out that day at the Mer de Glace, it made such sense to me that glaciers would be the setting for harsh questions of ethics and personal responsibility. Tinted in various hues of gray and white and blue, a glacier still feels overwhelmingly white, its expanse offering no shelter and little easy escape. You cross a glacier roped to others in your group. One climber’s too-quick step can tug you off your feet. Another’s lag can leave a loop in the rope that you might trip over. Thanks to the stress of altitude and effort, your companions’ every decision takes on enormous importance. It’s not a stretch to say a small decision can set everyone’s life at stake. That’s what had drawn me to the challenge of Mont Blanc in the first place. For as long as I can remember, I’ve viewed winter landscapes as the backdrop, the opportunity, for tests of character. An only child, a skier, a reader of adventure stories, I was serious about my snow. When, at age seven, I saw a documentary about Robert Scott, I imprinted on his tale of snow-bound endurance like a duckling. The story of his race against Roald Amundsen to be first to the South Pole seemed to me the most compelling adventure story of them all, and Scott, even in failure, the greatest hero. I likely owe my interest in Scott to the quality of his storytelling. Self-consciously crafting even his most anguished declarations, Scott employed literary devices and tropes as he recounted the experience of his Polar Party. In his final missive, he used a fascinating conditional about his own death: “Had we lived,” he wrote, “we would have had a tale to tell”[1]. For years I wanted to write something about Scott, something about what it must have felt like for him to see the Norwegian flag and know he had been beaten. I wondered how a person would respond, morally, to such a situation, in the stark landscape of the Pole that would seem to afford as little ethical ease as bodily comfort. What more would Scott have said, if he had lived to tell the story of his own survival? How would his tale have matched up against Amundsen’s? Or against the truth–if such a thing can be verified when one is alone on the ice? What recriminations might each man have uttered if he had been compelled to share the stage not only in the race but once the race was done? Since Scott couldn’t tell the tale–but didn’t he?–I found a way to tell it for myself, in my new novel Terra Nova, with two invented explorers who can’t exist without each other. As the idea for my novel came together, I was intent on staying away from the many narratives of Polar expeditions, lest my writing be too influenced by theirs. I thought instead of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and of the way she set her ethical questions against a backdrop of forbidding snowy landscapes. By the Mer de Glace, on the ice floes of the Arctic, and on Mont Blanc itself, Shelley sets a stark moral combat between a creator and a creature who desperately depend on each other just as much as they seek each other’s destruction. The novel captured what interested me most about a story set around the South Pole. My two fictional explorers would be bound together like Victor Frankenstein and his creature–in survival, in fame, and perhaps in ignominy. Frankenstein’s Miltonian questions–heralded by the epigraph from Paradise Lost–unfold like questions of pure morality, stripped of context or contingency and as bare as the glacial surface. Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mould me man? Did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me? Paradise Lost, Book X 743-45 Shelley gives us a tale of opposites bound inescapably together, of two individuals who are each the creation of the other. Without Victor Frankenstein there would surely be no monster; and the narrative makes clear that without the monster, Frankenstein himself would collapse into formlessness. Frankenstein’s story begins when he ponders the question “Whence . . . did the principle of life proceed?” He moves on to believe that “A new species would bless me as its creator and source.” But once his creature’s vengeful anguish has led him to kill two people, Frankenstein flees his creation–or thinks he can. He cites the lines in Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner that echo this notion of the inescapable pursuer: Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turn’d round, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread.[2] In his flight from the monster, Frankenstein arrives at Montanvert [sic] and goes from there onto the very Mer de Glace I stood above in September. “The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it,” he says. “The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock,” he says, accurately describing the Aiguilles du Dru. From where he stands, “above [Montanvert] rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty.” He goes on: The sea, or rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains, whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. * Frankenstein’s vision of this sublime frozen expanse is troubled by the creature he cannot escape. “I suddenly beheld,” Shelley writes, “the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution.” A confrontation follows, between creature and creator, centering on each one’s moral obligations–to society and to the other. As the creature puts it, “you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.” The two are both “enemies” and yet there is, contrary to what Frankenstein asserts, “community between [them]”. Shelley has framed the whole novel with this idea of inescapable pairing. Frankenstein begins with a letter from Robert Walton to his sister, telling her of his imminent departure for the North Pole. Looking out from his ship, Walton sees “stretched out in every direction, vast and irregular mountains and plains of ice”. In this stark setting, evocative of the Mer de Glace, Walton spies “a low carriage, fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass on towards the north . . . a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature”. This is, of course, the creature. The next day, when the sailors intercept a sledge on the ice, it turns out to be Frankenstein himself they rescue. His purpose: “‘To seek one who fled from me.’” In this event that takes place at the end of the story’s chronology, we see Frankenstein still in tortured connection to the monster, and Walton as well caught up now in a new bond, as he becomes compelled to hear out Frankenstein’s strange tale. Here, as in the Mont Blanc scene, snow and ice and cold serve as the stage on which Shelley’s moral actors play out their questions. Walton’s need for friendship, stated often in his letters to his sister, is held up for comparison with Frankenstein’s treatment of the monster, and the monster’s own needs for companionship. What are the limits of these personal and social connections, Shelley’s novel asks? What should those limits be? Like the figures in Shelley’s novel, Scott and Amundsen might as well have been roped together, so tied were they to each other’s identity and existence. The binary of their competition–one wins, one loses–forged a more particular individuality for each of them. Scott responded with stoicism to Amundsen’s victory: “The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal companions.” But the forced cheer of the day’s entry in his journal betrays a sense of loss deepened by his intimate knowledge of the rival’s experience. “The tent is fine–a small compact affair supported by a single bamboo,” he writes of Amundsen’s Polar shelter. “A note from Amundsen, which I keep, asks me to forward a letter to King Haakon!” Even in Amundsen’s success and Scott’s defeat, it was not certain which of the two would survive to tell the tale. Scott’s own experience was the near double of Amundsen’s–except for the tragic fact that Amundsen got there first. I imagine the two of them moving in almost parallel lines from north to south, invisible to each other, but always existentially connected, just like Frankenstein and the creature on the Arctic ice. For years before arriving in Chamonix, I had been looking forward to the Mont Blanc trip as an opportunity to face in my own life a tiny version of the challenges I’d set for my fictional explorers. That day by the edge of the Mer de Glace, I still had no answer for the questions raised by all that ice and snow. What were the limits of trust–of each other, of our guides? Could I have mastered my greater fears on Mont Blanc’s harder route? Or were these substitute journeys the toughest I could do? As we had crossed the occasional snow bridge not much wider than our crampons, what had the guides been thinking? Should we go on? Were we ready to go on? Could some have gone on without the others? It seems so simple, to know which bonds to cut and which to knot tighter, to know when to continue and when to walk away. But it’s not simple at all. And it seems clear to me now that the clarity of the choices, as Shelley articulates them against the stark white backgrounds, would diminish the allure of exploration. Frankenstein even confirms as much, with the impossibility of its hoped-for resolution. With Scott and Amundsen, too, what holds our fascination over a century later, is the ambiguity of their situation, not the clarity. Yes, Amundsen got to the South Pole first, but did only one team win, and who told the better story? [1] Robert Falcon Scott, Scott’s Last Expedition, The Folio Society, London (1964) [2] In Coleridge, too, the setting for this terrible companionship is the Pole–specifically the southern sea where, “The ice was here, the ice was there,/The ice was all around:/It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,/Like noises in a swound!” *** View the full article
  5. Bestselling thriller authors Kaira Rouda and Kimberly Belle write dark and twisty stories centered around a marriage. Not the happy, loving kinds of marriages they both have in real life, but marriages that are filled with secrets and lies…and murder. The author of THE WIDOW (Thomas & Mercer, Dec. 1) and THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT (Park Row Books, Nov. 29) sat down to talk about how the complexities of marriage and family life naturally lend itself to the plots of thrillers and mysteries. Kimberly: I saw the NY Post article about your upcoming book–Ex-Rep’s wife writes a novel about cheating congressman killed by wife (link: https://nypost.com/2022/10/01/ex-rep-harley-roudas-wife-kaira-writes-novel-about-cheating-congressman/). Talk about close to home! Does your husband sleep with one eye open? Kaira: Yes, yes he does. And he has been for quite some time now. Seriously, though, we do write some creepy characters so I can imagine being married to a person who writes domestic suspense could be a little terrifying. As for my latest The Widow, I had the chance to spend a lot of time in DC while my husband was serving in congress. It’s a place filled with dazzling architecture and memorials, cut-throat power, dazzling social events, and deeply held traditions. One of the traditions I found fascinating is The Widow’s Mandate. This is the custom of a spouse fulfilling the term of a sitting member of congress if he died in office. Sonny Bono’s wife Mary and John McCain’s wife, Cindy, are recent examples. The first, Mae Ella Nolan from California, became a US Representative when her husband died in 1922. The next century, forty seven additional women followed in her footsteps. Fulfilling this position was often short-lived for these women, and intentionally so. They were seen as placeholders, until the party could round up a suitable (read male) candidate. But some of these widows went on to have long careers on the hill. Statistically speaking, for women who aspire to serve in Congress, the best husband has been a dead husband. That’s where my novelist brain dreamed up the story of DC spouse, socialite Jody Asher and her husband, Martin, a 15-term member of congress. Life had been good for him, they were a powerhouse team on the hill, until Martin began an affair with a young staffer. That is one scandal Jody knows they can’t recover from. Martin’s indiscretions threaten to ruin everything. The affair doesn’t bother Jody personally, but professionally, it’s a legacy killer. When I wrote the story, my husband was still a member of congress. He was fine with the plot but members of his staff were a little concerned about it, to say the least. Harley’s been a great supporter of me and this novelist journey. But, to answer your question, he does joke that he sleeps with one eye open. Hopefully, he’s joking. Does yours? And does he have a personal assistant? Kimberly: Yes to both. My husband is constantly giving me the side-eye, and he’s not the only one. The Marriage Lie, Dear Wife, My Darling Husband… these are a few of the titles readers have seen from me, and a lot of them make their own assumptions. It’s a common author’s affliction, I think, that people believe your stories come from personal experience. And I suppose in a lot of ways they do. My husband has a personal assistant, for example–she’s fantastic, by the way–who handles everything from typing letters to watering plants to booking our airline tickets. This is a woman with a key to our house and access to much of our private information. Passwords. Birthdays. Credit card numbers and email log-ins. We trust her implicitly, but she could do a lot of damage if she wanted to, and it wasn’t long before my writer’s brain began filling in the blanks of all the ways a relationship like this one could go wrong. The result was The Personal Assistant, a story about an Instagram influencer named Alex whose post goes viral in the worst possible way, and it looks like her assistant AC may have had something to do with it. This woman who Alex trusted with all her secrets, who had access to her personal information and front row seats to the pressure points in her marriage, is not who Alex thought she was, and the experience exposes deep cracks in Alex’s marriage. And yes, maybe these cracks were there before AC came along, but still. It’s a cautionary tale about trust and the dangers of the digital world, but centered around a loving but somewhat dysfunctional marriage. The husbands and wives in your stories tend to be less loving and much more dysfunctional. Why do you think marriages lend themselves so well to crime stories? Kaira: There’s something psychological and historic there. People love watching true crime documentaries, 20/20, and listening to crime podcasts. I’m a decades long fan of Law & Order myself. I think all of these stories make us feel grateful we’re not living them. Maybe it’s a little voyeuristic, too? Whatever it is, I’m just as guilty. Is it escape or is it to feel better about our lives? I do know I am fascinated by places where everything seems perfect, purposefully so, but of course nothing ever is or could be. I’m drawn to suburban settings where people manufacture a facade of happiness but we all know that can’t be true, can’t be real, as much as we wish it was. It’s a uniquely American suburban dream. Insular neighborhoods, with outward beauty and perfection. The lawns are manicured, the seasonal holiday displays appropriately rotated, where kids ride bikes and play sports before sitting down to dinner with mom and dad. I love to dive beneath the surface of lives like that, where people have more than enough materially speaking, but are restless, and always striving for more, and to fit in. And some neighbors do turn out to be murderers, of course. and some are conniving. It’s cracking the surface, revealing what’s beneath, that is fun for me to explore as a novelist. Because we all know it’s not really that idyllic. It’s a mirage. As Kirkus Reviews noted about my novel, Somebody’s Home: “Whatever the opposite of family values is, Rouda seems intent on perfecting a genre that enshrines it.” I love that. So, you are more of a city girl, but it seems you find the same themes there? Kimberly: I live in a city where the nightly news is filled with villains and worst-case scenarios. Armed robberies, abductions, shootings, disappearances, murders. For me there’s something about a city setting that automatically implies danger. The darkness lurks around every corner. But really, all those things you find story-worthy in your suburban settings are here in a city, too. The big homes with perfectly landscaped lawns, the CEO husbands and country-club wives, the fancy cars and private schools with price tags as high as a college tuition. Whenever there’s that kind of money and status in play, there’s a lot to lose. Too much. People will do just about anything to make sure their lives stay “perfect”–at least on the outside. Behind closed doors, it’s a whole different story. I love peeling back the layers of these so-called perfect lives and revealing the ugly underbelly. Why are the spouses keeping secrets? How do they get away with it–or not? How do their lies endanger the whole family, and is there any way to reverse the damage? I think you and I could swap settings and both our books would still hold up. Ultimately, it’s about the evil that exists in the shadows. You’ve lived a charmed life, too. What is it about these kinds of stories that draw you to write them? Kaira: Maybe it is some sort of twisted escapism from our happy lives? I feel so lucky to be married to my best friend. My daughter, a screenwriter, confronted me a few years ago, after Best Day Ever released, and asked why I write such dark stories. She told me to stick to the light. And that made me think that perhaps these stories are a way for me to process the darkness in the world. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. In fact, Best Day Ever was filled with the words – stuck in my brain for a very long time – of some spectacularly bad, sexist, misogynistic bosses. Paul’s character, I think, was a way to process all of that, and turn it around into a story I controlled. The Favorite Daughter deals with a mom who isn’t what she seems, even though she appears to be the definition of suburban homemaker. Back to that theme of the perfect family is the perfect suburban illusion. There’s something terrifying about a housewife who is a menace. Somebody’s Home was based on many hearings I sat in on in DC about the rise of domestic terrorism. Putting this darkness into stories does help me process this type of threat and evil in the world, and hopefully, entertain readers along the way. My books do seem to keep getting darker as time goes on. I started my novel writing career with a women’s fiction novel, Here, Home, Hope, eleven years ago, took a two year trip into romance, and then well, domestic suspense took hold of my imagination starting with The Goodbye Year. My next novel, Beneath the Surface, slated for September of 2023, is stepping back into the light a little bit, more women’s fiction and suspense combined, a little Succession meets Arrested Development. Maybe that’s a hopeful sign? How about you? Kimberly: My first two books straddled genres: women’s fiction and suspense with a little romance thrown in for good measure. But readers didn’t quite know what they were getting into when they picked up the story, and I decided to zero in on one genre. It didn’t take me long to settle on suspense. It both terrifies and fascinates me how something as random as being in the wrong place at the wrong time can flip even the most happy marriage upside down. Criminals go unpunished. Murders remain unsolved. The missing are never found. I think you’re right–writing about these kinds of tragedies is a form of escapism, but even more so, it helps me to process the real-world crimes. Life is messy, and it doesn’t play fair. On the page, though, I am in charge. I can serve up justice, dole out punishment, teach the bad guys a lesson, make them pay or even better, apologize. I can give my heroines the endings their real-life counterparts deserve. We talk about this a lot on the Killer Author Club, our bi-weekly show with our friend and fellow author Heather Gudenkauf. So far every guest we’ve featured has said something similar, that writing about tragedies helps give them meaning. View the full article
  6. Heather Bourbeau’s work has appeared in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, Meridian, and The Stockholm Review of Literature. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia. She floats between fiction and poetry, and lives among the sage and fog. Her most recent collection is a poetry conversation with Irish-Australian poet Anne Casey, Some Days The Bird (Beltway Editions, 2022). ----------Interview by Renee Roberson WOW: Welcome, Heather, and congratulations! Setting plays such a large role in “Among the Sharks.” What inspired this story and how did you work with the use of setting to set the stage for this dark tale? Heather: The idea started with the net. I had been encouraged to write on the topic of “entanglement.” I immediately thought of the physical as well as the emotional meanings of that word. I knew I wanted to anchor the story in the larger San Francisco Bay. I love mornings on the water—there is a calm beauty—but you are also very aware of the potential dangers in the bitterly cold water and of life on the margins that you see in those early hours, including subsistence fishing on the piers and housing encampments along the shore. WOW: I love that the concept of this story is based on such a complex topic. It works beautifully. You are also an accomplished poet. Can you share more about the story behind “Some Days the Bird,” which you describe as a poetry conversation between you and poet Anne Casey? Heather: Anne and I met at the end of February 2020 when were the featured readers at Live Poets at Don Bank in Sydney, Australia. As Anne read her poetry, I felt like I had dumb lucked into meeting one of my people. In December 2020, I reached out to her, proposing we engage in a poetry conversation riffing off of Lace & Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens by Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil. (In 2016, I had fallen in love with the dozen poems they published as part of their exchange.) As someone who is deeply curious about the natural world around me, I wanted to engage in my own conversation with another writer, anchored in the experience of our respective gardens. I thought Anne would be the perfect partner for this, not only because of the fascination of witnessing opposite seasonal changes and dramatically different flora and fauna, but also because Anne’s writing captures the small and sublime amid a backdrop of history and events. The result is 52 poems (26 each) that examine the year that was 2021. WOW: What a fascinating project! It looks like it turned out well, too. What advice would you give writers wanting to explore the craft of lyrical poetry? Heather: The key for me is to pay attention with all my senses and keep a small notebook where I can jot down images, insights, and overheard fragments that will help me see themes. Sometimes I think I have nothing, that I am tapped out of creativity, but then I look at my notes and realize my brain has been playing with ideas and rhythms all along. WOW: You’ve had success being published in a variety of literary journals. What advice would you give to writers looking for places to submit? The list of publications can be overwhelming. Heather: First, know your voice. When you have a sense of what makes your voice unique, you will have a better sense of which journals might be the best home for your work. Follow the writers whose work you admire and write in a similar vein as you, see where they are published. Ask for recommendations. Check out and perhaps subscribe to monthly listings like Literistic. And aim to join the 100 rejections club by receiving 100 rejections in a given year. The more you submit, the more you will be published. For every 100 rejections, there will be some stellar publications. WOW: Great advice. How did you first hear about the contests at WOW? What other parts of the website do you enjoy? Heather: I first heard about WOW through Literistic. I liked learning about the contests (obviously), but then I loved the prompt resource. What a treasure trove!! WOW: I agree! Thanks again for stopping by and giving our readers to learn more about you and your work.(C) Copyright wow-womenonwriting.com Visit WOW! Women On Writing for lively interviews and how-tos. Check out WOW!'s Classroom and learn something new. Enter the Quarterly Writing Contests. Open Now![url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  7. Yesterday
  8. Dial A for Aunties Dial A for Aunties by Jessie Q. Sutanto is $2.99! This is a mix of cozy mystery and romance. It’s also been recommended a ton of previous podcast episodes. Have you read it? A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q Sutanto. 1 (accidental) murder 2 thousand wedding guests 3 (maybe) cursed generations 4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue! When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers. But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. A Holly Jolly Diwali RECOMMENDED: A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli is $1.99! Elyse wrote a Lightning Review of this one and gave it a B+: A Holly Jolly Diwali is a contemporary romance and a story about finding a place in one’s community. I really enjoyed it, but I can also see where some readers may feel the romance elements took second place to the main character’s journey of self discovery. One type-A data analyst discovers her free-spirited side on an impulsive journey from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa and finds love waiting for her on Christmas morning. Twenty-eight-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She’s always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she’s always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she’s laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn’t exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya’s wedding. Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it’s the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual. When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life–to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Firelight Firelight by Kristen Callihan is $1.99! This is the first book in the Darkest London series, a series that I mostly enjoy. In the first three books, the heroines are sisters and I’d rank them in their series order. The third is my least favorite, namely because it contains a lot of tropes that aren’t my thing. However, I still have enjoyed what I’ve read thus far. Once the flames are ignited . . . Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family’s fortune decimated and forced her to wed London’s most nefarious nobleman. They will burn for eternity . . . Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it’s selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can’t help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn’t felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. A Bad Day for Sunshine A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones is $1.99! This is the first book in a series series after Jones concluded her Charley Davidson books and the second book is also on sale. The third book is out tomorrow, so this is a great opportunity to catch up. New York Times bestselling author Darynda Jones is back with the brand-new snarky, sassy, wickedly fun Sunshine Vicram series! Sheriff Sunshine Vicram finds her cup o’ joe more than half full when the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, becomes the center of national attention for a kidnapper on the loose. Del Sol, New Mexico is known for three things: its fry-an-egg-on-the-cement summers, its strong cups of coffee—and a nationwide manhunt? Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff—an election her adorably meddlesome parents entered her in—and she expects her biggest crime wave to involve an elderly flasher named Doug. But a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of it’s reminding Sunny why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that trouble at her daughter’s new school and a kidnapped prized rooster named Puff Daddy, and Sunshine has her hands full. Enter sexy almost-old-flame Levi Ravinder and a hunky US Marshall, both elevens on a scale of one to blazing inferno, and the normally savvy sheriff is quickly in over her head. Now it’s up to Sunshine to juggle a few good hunky men, a not-so-nice kidnapping miscreant, and Doug the ever-pesky flasher. And they said coming home would be drama-free. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  9. When I first decided to write a series — in this case, the matriarchal fantasy series The Five Queendoms — it was an easy choice. I wanted to create a rich world too complex to fully explore in just one book, and I wanted to follow the course of characters’ intertwining lives over many years, so a series was the most logical option. Genre, too, factored in. When I was writing historical fiction, standalone novels made the most sense, but fantasy readers love a big juicy series. I decided I was ready, and leapt in. And for two novels, it all went according to plan. But as most of us know, writing and publishing are overlapping pursuits that don’t always line up perfectly. And I have a contract that only accounts for three novels, even if I feel like I could write novels set in this world I’ve created for years and years and years. So my third book will be the end of a trilogy… while leaving a number of doors open for following these characters and others through an ongoing series of events, and hopefully, books. Let’s just call that a bit of a challenge. After writing a 90K-word draft that treated the third book as a continuation and not a completion, I had to step back and reconsider my options. I could submit a book that didn’t end a trilogy, and almost certainly have it rejected by the publisher, which would lead to a whole other set of ramifications and decisions. I could rewrite it completely to tie up all the loose ends and close out the trilogy in a final sort of way, which definitely flew in the face of what I wanted artistically. After considering both of those options thoroughly, I did what I so often do: I chose the middle path. (The hard one, let’s be clear.) Here’s what finally helped me figure out how to do it: I put myself in the shoes of a TV writer. I imagined my task as writing the season finale of a series that might or might not be renewed. It happens on TV all the time, right? So: no cliffhangers. (Books one and two, though each resolved the main conflict of a self-contained story, also introduced the main conflict that the next book in the series would address.) Book three had to have a satisfying ending that followed naturally from books one and two, in addition to resolving its own self-contained story. My rule for standalone and series writing alike is this: the beginning of any book makes a promise that the end of the book must keep. But there are ways to end without ending. Books one and two both planted seeds that haven’t yet grown to full fruition, and the trick of the “season finale” approach is to avoid disappointing readers with what you choose to leave unresolved. You can’t make every reader happy with every decision. But I’m hoping that the way I’ve chosen to resolve book three will thread that needle. How would you solve the dilemma of ending a story for now without ending it forever? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  10. We are excited to launch the tour for From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith. This book is perfect for unpublished writers who want encouragement while preparing work for submission for the first time and a friendly voice to demystify how the publishing process works. It's also wonderful for published authors who are interested in learning why some of their past work might have been rejected. Its down-to-earth tips for revising, submission strategy, and having happier, long-term publishing experiences make this book a must-read for writers. Before we interview the author about her inspirational book for writers, here's more about this book: You’ve been writing and honing your craft for months or years and are curious about seeking publication for your latest project. Perhaps you wonder about the next steps in the process. Look no further! This book has a little something for every writer interested in expanding their audience and sharing their writing with readers, from pre-writing and writing your drafts to choosing your market and the writing life before, during, and after publication. Topics covered include:The Lovely Littles: Breaking into Literary MagazinesThe Spinning Spider: Keeping Track of your BrainchildrenOptions, You’ve Got ’em: Traditional, Indie/Small, University Press, or Self-Publishing Two Streams with One Stone: To Simultaneously Submit or NotMonetize it! Part One: All about the Benjamins; Monetize it! Part Two: Risk and a Swimming MetaphorThe Myth of the Fancy-Pants ToolsThe Art of Writing the Author BioParadox Meets Passion: Writer vs. AuthorThe Slam-Bam Reply: Now in Two Painful Varieties; Creative NoodlingF.U.N.and so much more! Publisher: Vine Leaves Press (May 2022) ISBN-10: 1925965929ISBN-13: 978-1925965929ASIN: B09V88F1SC Print length: 184 pages You can purchase a copy of this book in ebook or print at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. Be sure to also add this to your GoodReads reading list. About the Author, Melanie Faith Melanie Faith is a night-owl writer and editor who moves through the daytime world with her camera. She’s an introvert who likes to wear many hats, too, including as a poet, photographer, professor, and tutor. She’s been a doodler for years but just recently started to share her perfectly imperfect doodles. She loves to write about historical settings in poetry and prose, and this fall she taught both a Leaping Worlds class for historical fiction and time-travel writers as well as a university class about publishing. She especially enjoys creating nonfiction craft books that assist fellow authors on their writing paths, including books packed with tips about writing flash fiction and poetry. Her latest published craft books are: Photography for Writers, guides for teaching online and writing a research book respectively, and From Promising to Published: A Multi-Genre, Insider's Guide to the Publication Process (all from Vine Leaves Press). Read more about her books, classes, and arts projects at https://melaniedfaith.com/. ---- Interview by Nicole Pyles WOW: First, congratulations on your book! Why did you decide to write this book? Melanie: Thank you! I’m so excited about this book and sharing it with readers. I’ve taught online classes in publishing and marketing books for several years, and I love the process of sharing the many options for how writers can go about taking a manuscript from a file on a computer or a draft in a notebook to an e-book or tactile book. I remember very clearly how confusing and unfathomable the process felt to me before I got my first publication credits. I didn’t know where to start. I really want to give writers an easier, clearer view of their options for breaking in than the way I approached submitting work and publishing in a very prolonged, stumbling, unsure way for the first few years of my writing career. WOW: That's so awesome! You start out in your book saying you've submitted your writing more than 1,300 times! I'm so impressed (especially as someone who has only gotten close to the 200 mark). What has kept you motivated to submit so many times? Melanie: That’s such a great question! First off, I had no clue when I started trying to get published in my teens how often I would submit or how many rejections I’d get—or that getting rejections is routine and completely normal. Often, it’s best just to keep looking forward; one tiny step at a time creates marvelous momentum. That said, after I received my first rejection slip from a publication when I was 16, I kept writing endlessly but I didn’t make any submissions to editors outside of a school setting for four years. It stung deeply! So, I fully understand how painful rejection can be and how very personal it feels every time. On the other hand, I genuinely want to connect with readers, and I know that having endless project files just sitting on my laptop won’t help me to connect with my fellow readers and writers, so it’s important to me that I submit my writing regularly. As I developed as a writer and a person, knowing that I was trying became more important than whether it was a yes or no response (although I still savor each and every yes!), which gave me the courage to submit more and more. One tiny step at a time adds up over time. Both rejections and acceptances have reinforced for me that it’s important to keep persevering and sending work out there. You just never know when it’ll be a yes, so it’s important to interpret a “no” as a “not yet” or a “not for us,” and submit the work again and again and again to other markets who will be a better fit for the work. When I first started, I put a lot of pressure on myself and on my writing to get immediate (or almost immediate) yeses or I stopped submitting, instead of editing my manuscripts more and then sending to other editors. I gave up on pieces too soon, which is very common. For the past several years, I’ve aimed to submit at least three pieces a month, whether that’s a guest blog, an article, a batch of poems, photography, or a complete book manuscript. Also, once I started to submit simultaneous submissions to editors who accept them (always check guidelines before submitting), that increased the number of submissions I made because I didn’t need quite so much new material all at once. That way, I always have multiple projects in rotation on editors’ desks which increases my chances at a yes. The yeses, along with reader and fellow writer encouragement, really make a huge difference in motivating me and keeping me going. "You just never know when it’ll be a yes, so it’s important to interpret a 'no' as a 'not yet' or a 'not for us,' and submit the work again and again and again to other markets who will be a better fit for the work." WOW: I love you keep things in rotation. You also teach students! What kind of lessons do you gain from your role as a teacher? Melanie: I love teaching fellow writers. They are some of the most imaginative, talented, hopeful, determined people I’ve ever met. They are generous with sharing their thoughts, struggles, and goals. I feel a sense of community with my students. We all understand the cycle of hope, angst, and hard work involved in pursuing publication. I love how each writer’s path shares commonality and yet is also highly personal and unique. Working with students teaches me how marvelously diverse and important writers’ voices are as well as underscores that there is room for all genres, styles, innovations, and writers at the table. My students teach me again and again the value of having writing dreams as well as perseverance, flexibility, and acceptance as our skills and our projects evolve over time. WOW: Those skills are so important! Your first chapter talks about the importance of calling yourself a writer. Personally speaking, I've been a writer for as long as I can remember but it's only in the last few years it's now officially part of my email's signature line. Why do you think it's such a struggle for writers to label themselves as a writer? Melanie: This is such an important question; thank you! When we practice the arts—whether it’s sculpting, painting, writing a novel or a collection of poetry, or recording a collection of songs—one of the first questions any artist gets asked is, “Have you sold/published [your project]?” Another is, “Where can I read/see your work?” It’s often very challenging to keep growing as writers while also experiencing the pressure to write faster to have publications available that showcase our writing to the best of our abilities as we are still developing as artists. Crafting the work alone in a room or in a small workshop group of trusted friends is much different than sharing it with a wider audience that often doesn’t include writers. People often mean well in showing interest or curiosity, while at the same time not knowing how very much effort and time go into writing, editing, publishing, and marketing a single work of art. We can feel hurried or a little foolish or embarrassed at times when we don’t have immediate publications after many months’ work or study—even though that’s 100% normal. Writing is a slowly built craft; not fast food. It’s natural to self-protect and not tell many people (if anyone, even ourselves) that we are writers for years—but to keep writing, revising, and learning, just without the title. Although, after a while, claiming the title becomes important. I understand hesitating to call oneself a writer, because I took photographs for many years before I dared to call myself a photographer aloud, much less on my website and social media, even though I ran around taking photos with a camera for almost as long as I’ve been a writer. I always felt like someone would call me out on it, because I didn’t professionally study photography, and I don’t make my living from photography, and because for very many years I hadn’t had my work in an art show yet. It was so liberating when I finally felt ready to call myself a photographer, not just a person who “likes to take photographs now and again.” Still, we wouldn’t go up to a plumber and say, “Well, since you haven’t fixed 7,000 faucet leaks this year, you’re not a real plumber, are you?” or a chef and say, “You don’t have a three-star restaurant, so why’s your name on the door?” but that’s often part of the message writers receive, that there are benchmarks before publicly saying we are writers—through words or body language or even self-talk—which makes writers understandably hesitant to claim the title of writer. Many wait until they get a first publication or a writing-related job or a degree in writing or have won a writing contest as a protection mechanism against the questioning or judgment of others. Also, it’s not easy to claim space as a writer. There’s a ton of competition, and writing is a craft that we learn and improve on over time and with effort and energy before we gain more and more confidence in our abilities. It’s totally normal that sometimes it takes many of us months or years to say aloud that we ARE writers. The great thing is that it gets much easier to say it the more we type it in our emails; say it aloud to new acquaintances, friends, and family; and start putting it on our websites, front and center. It’s a subtle shift, but a big one. Being a writer is an identity as well as a vocation and a lineage of all the writers who came before us and those yet to follow this path after us—it’s a very exciting, honorable, frustrating, mysterious, worthwhile path, and it just takes as long and it takes to feel comfortable voicing that we are writers. No benchmarks needed before applying. You are a writer if you practice the art of writing, period. Publications, workshops, classes, conferences: all of these can be wonderful and very helpful parts of the writing journey to experience—just know that you are already a writer before, during, and after them. No shade at all to any writers still getting to the point where they can type or verbally introduce themselves as writers. You’ll get there. Nurture yourself and support what feels best for you. Once we do claim the title “writer” aloud or in print—whether it’s in our own handwriting in a notebook or all over the internet—it’s that much sweeter for the journey it took to get us there. "You are a writer if you practice the art of writing, period." WOW: It's such a profound journey to finally call ourselves a writer. What do you hope readers take away from your book after finishing? Melanie: I hope this book infuses readers with self-belief and courage to pursue publication in whatever ways are the best fit for them and their projects. I want writers to feel prepared to put in the work over years—writing, publishing or self-publishing, and marketing are often more of a marathon than a sprint—and also to know that they deserve success. I’d love for readers to know from the book that we’re living in a golden age for ways to become published (from self-publishing and blog posting to small-press publishing to publishing with a university press to getting an agent to publishing with big-name traditional publishers) and also myriad ways to study craft and keep improving (from reading craft books, taking online or in-person classes, starting or joining a workshop, and much more). I also want readers to take away that all writers (even frequently published ones) experience setbacks, rejections, and support during our careers that make this writing path a varied and meaningful one. Perseverance and some humor, too, are assets I hope writers will take along on their journeys to make their writing and publishing dreams come true. Mostly, I hope readers will feel excited that what they have to say will find its target market and readers who will appreciate their writing. You’ve got this! WOW: Thank you so much for your insights, Melanie! Best of luck on your book! ---- Blog Tour Calendar December 5th @ The MuffinJoin WOW as we celebrate the launch of Melanie Faith's blog tour of From Promising to Publishing. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the bookhttps://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com December 5th @ Karen Brown TysonVisit Karen's blog today and read about whether to monetize your writing or keep it a hobby.https://karenbrowntyson.com December 7th @ Create Write NowVisit Mari's blog today to read a guest post by Melanie Faith about how to self-motivate.https://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog December 8th @ Margay Leah Justice's BlogJoin Margay as she reviews From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.https://margayleahjustice.blogspot.com/ December 9th @ Blunt Scissors Book ReviewsJennifer shares her thoughts about Melanie Faith's helpful book From Promising to Published.https://www.instagram.com/bluntscissorsbookreviews/ December 10th @ World of My ImaginationVisit Nicole's blog to catch her review of From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.https://worldofmyimagination.com/ December 11th @ Shoe's Seeds and StoriesVisit Linda's blog as she reviews Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.https://lschuelerca.wordpress.com/ December 12th @ One Writer's JourneySue shares her thoughts about Melanie Faith's helpful book for writers From Promising to Published.https://suebe.wordpress.com/ December 13th @ Lisa Haselton's Book Reviews & InterviewsVisit Lisa's blog for an interview with author Melanie Faith about her book From Promising to Published.https://lisahaselton.com/blog/ December 15th @ Mother Daughter BookclubJoin Cindy as she reviews From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.https://motherdaughterbookclub.com/ December 16th @ The Faerie ReviewLily shares her thoughts about Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.https://www.thefaeriereview.com/ December 18th @ Michelle Cornish' BlogCome by Michelle's blog and read Melanie Faith's guest post about overcoming imposter syndrome.https://www.michellecornish.com/blog December 20th @ A Storybook WorldDeirdra features a spotlight of Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.https://www.astorybookworld.com/ December 21st @ Elle Backenstoe's BlogJoin Elle as she reviews Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.http://ellebackenstoe.com/ December 22nd @ Author Anthony Avina's BlogVisit Anthony's blog and read his review of From Promising to Published.https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/category/blog-tours/ December 23rd @ Help Me NaomiNoami shares a review of From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.https://helpmenaomi.com/ December 24th @ The Mommies ReviewsJoin Tara she reviews Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published and hosts a giveaway too.https://www.themommiesreviews.com/ December 27th @ Mindy McGinnis' BlogJoin Mindy's blog today where author Melanie Faith shares tips on writing author bios that have personality and heart.https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog December 27th @ Beverley A. Baird's BlogJoin Beverley as she reviews Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/ December 29th @ Beverley A. Baird's BlogVisit Beverley's blog to read a guest post by Melanie Faith about the benefits of hiring a freelance editor and how to find a good fit.https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/ December 30th @ Jill Sheets BlogJoin Jill as she interviews Melanie Faith, author of From Promising to Published.http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/ January 2nd @ Elle Backenstoe's BlogVisit Elle's blog again and read Melanie Faith's guest post about the benefits of beta readers and how to find one.http://ellebackenstoe.com/ January 3rd @ Editor 911Join Margo as she features a guest post by Melanie Faith about the taking-on-too-much spiral.https://editor-911.com/blog January 4th @ Liberate & LatherVisit Angie's blog and read her review of From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith. She hosts a giveaway and also interviews author Melanie Faith about her book.https://liberateandlather.com/blog January 5th @ Word MagicFiona reviews this helpful writing book From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith. Don't miss it!http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/ January 7th @ Leslie's VoiceJoin Leslie as she reviews From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.https://lesliesvoice.com/ ***** BOOK GIVEAWAY ***** Enter to win a copy of From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends December 18th at 11:59 CT. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget and follow up via email. Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway (C) Copyright wow-womenonwriting.com Visit WOW! Women On Writing for lively interviews and how-tos. Check out WOW!'s Classroom and learn something new. Enter the Quarterly Writing Contests. Open Now![url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  11. Another week, another batch of books for your TBR pile. Happy reading, folks. * Elyse Friedman, The Opportunist (MIRA) “This perfectly paced novel mixes intrigue, drama, and mystery. Each reveal is timed to keep readers glued to the pages, and no character is safe from the others’ lies. With so many appealing factors, this book will be popular with a wide range of patrons.” –Booklist Josh Haven, Fake Money, Blue Smoke (Mysterious Press) “Keeps the suspense high without sacrificing plausibility. [A] promising new talent.” –Publishers Weekly Tessa Wegert, The Kind to Kill (Severn House) “Considering who the bogeyman clearly is and remains, Wegert does an admirable job of generating mounting suspense.” –Kirkus Reviews Luke Dumas, A History of Fear (Atria) “[A] stellar debut, a complex whydunit . . . . Admirers of Andrew Pyper’s The Demonologist will be riveted.” –Publishers Weekly Mina Hardy, We Knew All Along (Crooked Lane) “Wickedly suspenseful, We Knew All Along is a snappy page-turner that will make you question everything you thought you knew and keep you guessing until the very last page. Don’t miss it!” –Avery Bishop Darby Kane, The Last Invitation (William Morrow) “Darby Kane deserves credit for dispensing with anything resembling a slow burn in The Replacement Wife. There is a rollicking, almost absurdist tone to Kane’s writing that kept me engaged…Finally, after several doses of sociopathy, more than a little gaslighting and arguments galore, nearly all of Elisa’s suspicions are confirmed in the worst possible way. ‘Nearly’ saves room for a final surprise I didn’t foresee.” –New York Times Book Review Darynda Jones, A Hard Day for a Hangover (St. Martins) “Laugh-out-loud funny, intensely suspenseful, page-turning fun.” –Allison Brennan Hannah Morrissey, The Widowmaker (Minotaur) “The Widowmaker confirms Hannah Morrisey’s status as one of the brightest new voices in crime fiction. An unflinching look at two damaged people trying to do right in a world full of wrong, told in scalpel-sharp prose with a poet’s eye for detail.” –Riley Sager John Straley, Blown By The Same Wind (Soho) “Terrific . . . Like the earlier novels in the series, this one is funny and quirky, a lighter change of pace from the Younger books and a delight for fans of small-town comic mysteries with a bit of bite.” –Booklist Peter Mohlin, Peter Nyström (transl. Ian Giles), The Other Sister (Overlook Press) “Mohlin and Nyström’s stellar sequel to 2021’s The Bucket List more than delivers on the first book’s promise . . . This nail-biter doesn’t let John off the hook for some hard choices he’s forced to make as the action builds to a jaw-dropping climax. Readers will be counting the days to see where these gifted writers take their lead next.” –Publishers Weekly View the full article
  12. As the leaves fall from the trees and the days grow colder, the thought of curling up with a good book becomes more enticing than ever. Although I love reading (and writing) cozy mysteries at any time of the year, there’s something about the cooler weather that makes the genre even more appealing, and I love to have a stack of fall-themed cozies ready to read when autumn arrives. In my mind, there’s nothing better than being pulled right into the fall atmosphere of a cozy mystery so I can almost smell the hint of wood smoke in the chilly air and hear the crunch of leaves underfoot. As a writer, I hope to provide that same experience for my readers. The fifth installment of the Literary Pub Mystery series, Through the Liquor Glass, takes place in October and is centered around a food and drink festival called A Taste of Shady Creek. The festival highlights the town of Shady Creek’s many restaurants and food and drink producers, including the Inkwell Pub, owned and operated by series protagonist Sadie Coleman. With the pub located in a renovated grist mill, offering literary-themed food and drinks, and hosting book clubs in a cozy room with a woodstove, the Inkwell is the perfect place to spend a fall evening. Of course, the autumn season can’t go too smoothly. While Sadie is taking part in the festival and preparing for Halloween, a body turns up dead at the craft brewery owned by her boyfriend, Grayson Blake. Grayson quickly becomes the prime suspect and goes into hiding to avoid arrest. Sadie sets out to clear his name, but with a long list of suspects, foodie writers with attitude, and her visiting mother to deal with, she’s definitely got her hands full. Through the Liquor Glass also features a corn maze, stormy nights, rumors of a haunted house, and lots of autumn atmosphere. The inspiration for many of the events that take place in my books comes from the small town where I now live. My town’s pumpkin harvest festival, complete with pumpkin catapult competition, gave me the idea for the autumn festival (also with a pumpkin catapult competition) in the first Literary Pub Mystery, Wine and Punishment. The food and drink festival featured in Through the Liquor Glass was also inspired by a similar real-life event that took place in my town before the pandemic hit. If you want to immerse yourself in fall festivities from the comfort of your own home, there are many cozy mysteries you can turn to. Below, I’ve listed several cozies featuring fall festivals that will give you all the autumn feels as well as a great mystery to puzzle out. The Cider Shop Rules by Julie Anne Lindsey What could be more suitable for fall reading than a cozy mystery centered around apples and apple cider? This series even features a character named Granny Smythe (you’ve got to love an apple pun!). This is the third book in the Cider Shop Mystery series about Winona Mae Montgomery (Winnie) and her cider shop, which is located in the historic Mail Pouch barn on her family’s orchard property. In The Cider Shop Rules, the orchard’s Fall Harvest Festival is in full swing, but when the owner of the local pumpkin patch turns up dead in the back of Winnie’s truck, the season suddenly gets more complicated. This cozy has so many great autumn elements, including a pumpkin patch, scarecrows, and a corn maze. Plus, we can’t forget the apple cider! A Waffle Lot of Murder by Lena Gregory While autumn in her new home of Boggy Creek, Florida isn’t what New York transplant Gia Morelli is used to, there’s still plenty of spooky season spirit and fall fun. On top of running her all-day breakfast café, Gia takes part in Boggy Creek’s Haunted Town Festival. The festival takes place on deserted farmlands and involves teams of participants transforming old buildings into spooky spectacles. The festival’s fear factor gets amped up when Gia and her best friend find a dead body in the woods. Digging Up the Remains by Julia Henry For those who prefer a protagonist of a more mature age, the Garden Squad Mystery series is a great choice. Digging Up the Remains, the third book in the series, takes place during the fall festival in Goosebush, Massachusetts. The main character, retiree Lilly Jayne, is involved in planning the festival’s activities, which include a 10k run and a haunted house on her expansive front lawn. Lilly’s life becomes even busier when she and the fellow members of her Garden Squad set out to solve the mysterious death of an unscrupulous reporter who has threatened several Goosebush residents. A Stew to a Kill by Jenny Kales A Stew to a Kill is the fourth book in the Callie’s Kitchen Mystery series. Callie Costas owns and operates a Greek-American eatery in Crystal Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her daughter and her adorable Yorkie. While Callie is preparing for the local fall festival, skeleton display, and costume ball, a death at a neighboring business complicates her life. This book offers autumn atmosphere, a great mystery, and recipes for mouth-watering food. While not from this particular book, one of my all-time favorite recipes (Greek rice pudding or Rizogalo) comes from this series. No Parm No Foul by Linda Reilly No Parm No Foul is the second Grilled Cheese Mystery by Linda Reilly. In this book, Carly Hale, owner of a grilled cheese eatery, is taking part in the Scary-Licious Smorgasbord competition. One of her fellow competitors, the owner of the local sub shop, winds up dead after a very public and very angry outburst aimed at Carly. That spells trouble for both Carly and her boyfriend. I love that this series is set in Vermont, like my Literary Pub series is. There’s something about fall in New England that makes it the perfect backdrop for cozy mysteries. Reilly’s series is charming and fun, but beware—it will have you craving grilled cheese sandwiches! *** View the full article
  13. “I have a gun in my head.” My mother used to say that. When I was very little, I didn’t know what she meant, but soon enough it became clear. The asshole in the BMW who jumped his turn at the four-way stop? Blam. The incompetent male colleague who took credit for her ideas? Pop pop pop. The xenophobic neighbour asked her why she married a “greeny”? Right between the eyes. What my mother knew, and what I recently discovered as I wrote my first crime novel, is that it’s extremely satisfying to kill people in your imagination. Especially rotten people. Prior to penning The Opportunist, I had written three novels and a novella. They had plots that amused me: a broke artist starts a cult to make money / a hideously ugly woman wakes up beautiful and discovers that, contrary to what we’ve all been told, it’s actually what’s outside that counts / a wealthy screenwriter buys his childhood home, retrofits it to look exactly as it had in the 1970s and hires actors to portray his long-deceased parents at a very strange family reunion (I did it first, Nathan Fielder) / a washed-up C-list former celebrity starts stalking his biggest fan. All of these were a kick to write, but none were half as much fun as The Opportunist, in which three siblings band together to vanquish the 28-year-old “gold digger” who is about to marry their 76-year-old father. And the chapters I most enjoyed scribbling were the ones that were the most murder-y (once you’ve gleefully run over a character in a speed boat, there’s really no going back to literary fiction). So, now I’m hooked and currently at work on my second crime novel. The other day my son saw me gazing out the window at the pretty yellow leaves drifting down from the sugar maple in the front yard. I guess I must have looked dreamy or contemplative because he asked what I was thinking about. “I was wondering if it were possible to stuff somebody in a septic tank,” I said. He looked vaguely alarmed as he backed out of the room. The truth is, I’ve always been a fan of crime fiction, so I don’t know why it took me so long to try my hand at it. Here are a few favourites that inspired me to take the plunge: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky The mother of all crime novels. No other piece of literature has penetrated my subconscious like this one. To this day, it remains the only book that has ever entered my dreams. Even though I read it decades ago, I still remember having sweaty nightmares in which I had slain the pawnbroker and was cowering on the dark staircase, desperately trying to make my escape. Burial by Neil Cross I must be into books about people who feel horribly guilty. A terrible mishap at a party leads to a girl’s death in which Nathan, the protagonist, plays a key role. Nathan learns that while you can dispose of a corpse, you can’t as easily do away with a nagging conscience. And the past has funny way of popping up in the present. A slow burn full of heart-squeezing suspense. Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard You’ve got to love a book that starts with a guy learning that if he gets up out of his chair, he’ll be blown to smithereens. Leonard brings his breezy style and wit to a story about a cop who’s about to leave the bomb squad, and two ex hippie revolutionaries (who have graduated from politics to lucre) with a talent for blowing things up. The Outlander by Gil Adamson When a poet writes a crime book you end up with a thrilling combination of suspense, action and literary perfection. Every line is a carefully crafted thing of beauty. And while you could easily linger and marvel at the stunning sentence composition and impeccably researched period details, you’ll be quickly turning pages to find out if our heroine Mary Boulton can stay one step ahead of the terrifying redheaded brothers who are pursuing her. Ridgerunner, the sequel, is also great. The Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford Richard Hudson is a used-car salesman who divides the world into Feebs and Insiders. Feebs are the feeble minded, the suckers. Insiders are those who are “wise to themselves and to things as the way things are.” Hudson fancies himself an Insider. And when he decides he’s going to transition from salesman to writer/director of a feature film, he uses all his corrupt Insider energy to manipulate his way to the top. A true sociopathic schemer, but maybe more of a Feeb than he knows. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz Even though I guessed the twist a lot sooner than I would have liked, I really dug this tale about Jacob Finch Bonner, a once promising, now washed-up author who regains literary fame and fortune after stealing the plot of a deceased student’s novel. It’s all bestseller lists and accolades for Jake until somebody out there realizes the story has been pinched. Now Jake has to figure out who knows his secret before his treachery can be exposed. This is a fun one for writers, especially anyone who has gone through an MFA program, as Hanff Korelitz is clearly familiar with the milieu and the exasperating types who populate that world. *** View the full article
  14. Squee Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree June 7, 2022 · Tor Science Fiction/Fantasy Friends, I have to tell you that Legends and Lattes is absolutely, utterly delightful. It was as comforting as the coffeehouse setting that the protagonist attempts to create. It’s a cinnamon roll of a book which, by the way, contains actual cinnamon rolls. I am in love. Our tale begins with our main character, an orc named Viv, seizing a magical thingamajig that brings luck. She promptly quits her life of breaking heads open for pay and sets out to find a town in which to build her heart’s desire – a coffee shop. Viv settles in the city of Thune, where no one seems to know what coffee is. However, with the help of a carpenter named Cal, an assistant named Tandri, and a baker named Thimble, Viv sets about transforming her life from mercenary violence to peace and pastries. We follow Viv step-by-step as she refurbishes an old livery stable and gradually adds features of a modern independent coffee house, right down to the university student who studies for hours without buying anything. If you feel a deep sense of satisfaction when you watch home improvement shows, or if you love renovation romance novels, you will be so, so deeply satisfied with every new development. This is also going to delight fans of found family tropes. Viv is an orc, Cal is a hob, Tandri is a succubus, and Thimble is a rattkin. All of them are used to being judged based on their appearances. The coffee shop allows all of them to create new lives for themselves. It’s heartwarming to see them gradually build close friendships, and I love that this happens in parallel with the coffee shop becoming a place where the neighborhood can come together and enjoy being a real community. None of this would work if the characters didn’t feel solid and real. I became deeply attached to them very quickly. Yes, there is a romance, and yes, it’s great. It doesn’t feel wedged in or impulsive – it’s just a natural progression of the relationship that two characters have been building all along. Allow me a digression. Fantasy author Jim C. Hines published his very first novel, written in college and titled Rise of the Spider Goddess in an annotated form. It’s a selfless, hilarious, and fabulous writing class, as he points out every single thing wrong with his book, and there are many, many wrong things. One thing he pointed out that has stuck with me is that in some fantasy novels, including Rise of the Spider Goddess, the world begins and ends at the edges of whatever the characters are doing and/or seeing. Hines uses the work of Tolkien as a contrast. In Tolkien, one never doubts that all kinds of stories have, are, and are going to, take place far beyond anything the reader comes into contact with. Middle Earth feels lived in, even for those of us who don’t read the appendices. We believe that “the road goes on and on,” even when the characters don’t go all the way down it. I’m not saying that the author of Legends and Lattes, Travis Baldree, is the next Tolkien, because, among other things, this is a small scale story as opposed to Tolkien’s expansive work. As the author puts it, it is a “Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes.” Also, it’s a tribute to fantasy tropes, not an invention of them. However, the author is very good at making the world of the characters feel real and expansive. I never doubted the reality of this world, one in which hard work and relationship building plays a much larger role in getting things done than magic, even though magic is everywhere. Likewise, even though I never got to see much of Viv’s relationships with her old raiding party, I believed in those relationships. The author has also been compared to my beloved Terry Pratchett, may he rest in peace. The humor is more rare and more subtle, but he shares with Pratchett a warm and optimistic tone. Bad things happen in this story, but there’s an overall sense that people want to be decent most of the time, and that crime pays, but not always in the currency one might desire. Mostly, the idea of beginning the story after the main character is done adventuring, and sticking to that is really innovative and comforting. Some readers might be disappointed by the relative lack of plot in this book, although there is a smattering of action and a lot of headaches for Viv involving the local crime boss. However, this was exactly the comfort read that I needed. It’s as sweet and warming as a latte (which is described on the menu as “a sophisticated and creamy variation [on coffee].” If you are in the mood for a comfort read in which decent people do homey things, and you don’t mind being hungry while you read (those cinnamon rolls!!!) then this is the book for you. View the full article
  15. Welcome back to Cover Awe! Cover art by Mayara Sampaio Cover design by Aurora Parlagreco Maya: Not a romance, still a delight Amanda: Love the motion and sensible, protective gloves!! Carrie: and tennies, glasses, and shirt tied around the waist, something no self-respecting teen goes without these days! Also great use of light. Sarah: I love this cover. Delight is the perfect word! Cover art by Leni Kauffman Cover design by Katie Anderson Claudia: Ooh Hunter green!! I’ve been seeing that color more and more. Shana: I love everything about this. Amanda: I want to zoom in on all the little border objects. Sarah: I love the tiny details. I always like filigree on a cover, but hiding little items inside makes me extra curious. Also, I love her style. Cover photography by Lillian Liu Cover design by Katie Anderson Kiki: She’s spooky and I love her. Amanda: The red dress! The carefully placed blood splatter! Sarah: The effect of the shadowy glass of the old mirror is exquisite. This designer did such a great job. Elyse: There’s an intimacy in the way he looks at her. Amanda: I really love the style of this one and the way the figures are drawn! Sarah: Oh, I love the vintage elevator look, and the color combination here. View the full article
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  17. Hi Writers, Let me guess: you’re working on a novel, but struggling to finish it. Or maybe you’ve got a first draft and need guidance for revision. I can help. I’m John Matthew Fox, and I help fiction authors write better novels. I gathered up the wisdom from fifteen years of editing novels, writing books of my own, and creating nine writing courses, and put it inside a book: “The Linchpin Writer.” You should get this book if you want to: Start or finish your novel Write a novel that readers will squeal and swoon over Get help revising your book The book focuses on all the crucial points of your novel: First character descriptions How to surprise a reader Ending a chapter How to create emotion in a reader And it gives advice on how you can write your first draft or revise what you’ve already written. If you’re a beginning writer, this will guide you through the writing process. And even seasoned authors with a few books under their belt told me they learned quite a bit. I don’t just repeat the typical writing rules: I teach you how to break those rules. And I don’t just give you a formula: I give you lots of examples that will inspire a variety of storytelling shapes. But don’t just trust what I’m saying. Read reviews: “I have read a lot of books on writing and editing fiction over the years, and this is one of the best.” – Jennifer Denver “The Linchpin Writer was terrific writing advice that made me want to drop everything and throw open my notebook.” – Audrey Bishop “Most craft books are quite prescriptive, sometimes vague, and often not all that valuable. John Fox’s book was entirely different. I’ve been writing for 15 years, and I took more away from this book than I have from any craft book I’ve ever read.” – Kieren Westwood So, here’s a little bit more about me. I am … A developmental editor: I’ve edited hundreds of novels, helping my authors get selected as a Kirkus “Best Book of the Year” and sell as many as 90,000 copies. A guide for writers: More than 20 million writers have visited my website Bookfox. A course creator: I offer 9 writing courses on topics like writing your novel, crafting fantastic dialogue, and writing gorgeous sentences. An author: My books include “I Will Shout Your Name” and “The Linchpin Writer.” If you’re still not convinced, I’ll sweeten the pot: Buy this book before the end of the year and I’ll give you a free course on Point of View. That’s right, a free mini-course going through things like psychic distance, unreliable narrators, variations in omniscient POV, and how to overcome the limitations of your chosen point of view. All you have to do is order the print book or ebook, then email me the screenshot of your purchase confirmation, and I’ll give you access to the course. Book + Course = Genius-Level Writer Buy the book right now. Happy writing! ~John Matthew Fox [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  18. Our latest bestseller list is brought to you by howling winds, soft blankets, and our affiliate sales data. Sleepover by Serena Bell Amazon | B&N | Kobo The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang Amazon | B&N | Kobo Holidays with the Wongs: The Complete Series by Jackie Lau Amazon | B&N | Kobo Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez Amazon | B&N | Kobo The Bodyguard by Katherine Center Amazon | B&N | Kobo In a New York Minute by Kate Spencer Amazon | B&N | GooglePlay The Runaway Duchess by Joanna Lowell Amazon | B&N | Kobo Hotel Magnifique by Emily Taylor Amazon | B&N | Kobo Any Rogue Will Do by Bethany Bennett Amazon | B&N | Kobo Grey Hair Don’t Care by Karen Booth Amazon I hope your weekend reading was cozy and restorative! View the full article
  19. Barbara’s Bio: Predominately a visual artist, Barbara Olsen has been creating art for several years, exhibiting her work in numerous shows and publications: www.barbaraolsenart.com. As an unapologetic lifelong list maker, journal nerd, and travel diarist, she also harbors an innate interest in the written word. In the last few years, she’s dipped her toes into writing prose and poetry and been recognized by WOW! Women on Writing competitions for her work. Barbara’s writings disclose personal, but at once universal, stories that reveal our interconnectedness. She’s currently working on a collection of essays exploring transitions. If you haven't done so already, check out Barbara's award-winning essay "Everything Remains" and then return here for a chat with the author. WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q4 2022 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? Barbara: As with many of my essays, I began writing it in my head. After a while, when it became too uncomfortable to keep it inside, it found its way onto the blank page. I had seen the interaction between the teenager and his mother on a beach two years ago. It deeply disturbed me on a maternal level and brought up my own insecurities. Was I a good enough mother? What could I have done better? So, I initially spoke to that in the first draft of my essay, but I wanted to express more. There was a feeling of interconnectedness with all mothers that I wanted to include. With subsequent drafts, I eventually found the wording to convey the awareness within mothers that the work we do is hard and never forgotten. I wanted to wrap the mother in my arms and say, "I see you. I have been where you are now. You are not alone." WOW: Thank you for sharing your process with us. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? Barbara: I learned that it takes persistence to hone an essay down to its true essence. And that, just because it veers off course a handful of times, doesn’t mean you can’t get it righted in the end. WOW: The power of persistence: so important for writers. Can you tell us more about the collection of essays you’re working on that explore transitions? Barbara: I’ll start by saying I’ve always been uncomfortable with change. Obviously, I’m not alone. I think countless humans would be more than happy to freeze-frame their lives during the good times and watch that movie run for a while. It’s hard being human. Our parents get older, our children grow up, and our loved ones pass away. Our roles morph, and we change as well. We become different people. The essay collection I’m working on explores these transitions: the ones in our lives where the sands shift beneath our feet, and we search for meaning and perspective as we regain our footing. WOW: I love that concept, and it sounds like it is so relevant to our WOW community. Was there anything in particular that inspired you to start writing creatively after being predominantly a visual artist? Barbara: I’ve always been particularly inspired by the combination of images and words. Illustrated travel diaries and sketchbooks line my bookshelves. Because I’ve kept journals, lists, and travel diaries over the years, it hasn’t felt like a massive leap to writing essays. When I apply paint to paper, I can visually express what I can’t always put into words. But on the other hand, I can often write more succinctly what I can’t articulate with paint. There’s this symbiotic relationship between the two; each expression informs the other, and smack in the middle is where I like to live. WOW: It’s fascinating to hear about the relationship between visual and written expression and how it manifests for you. What have you read recently that has influenced your writing? Barbara: I enjoyed Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days, Jo Ann Beard’s Festival Days, and Sarah Polley’s Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory. All are collections of essays and stories. Whether or not they have specifically influenced my writing is hard to say. I know that within these collections, I have discovered pieces that align with topics I like to explore: memory, transitions, and loss. I imagine almost everything I read informs my writing in one way or another on some subconscious level. WOW: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing your reading list! Anything else you’d like to add? Barbara: Thank you to Ashley Memory for critiquing my essay and for the biggest compliment she could ever have given me, “I needed to read this essay.” Thank you to everyone at Women on Writing for providing a supportive platform for women writers to get their work out there and be seen. And for the valuable critiques that help nudge good essays toward great essays! WOW: Thank you for sharing your writing with us and for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing! Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, founder and editor-in-chief of Sport Stories Press, which publishes sports books by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes and offers developmental editing and ghostwriting services to partially fund the press. Engage on Twitter or Instagram @GreenMachine459. (C) Copyright wow-womenonwriting.com Visit WOW! Women On Writing for lively interviews and how-tos. Check out WOW!'s Classroom and learn something new. Enter the Quarterly Writing Contests. Open Now![url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  20. Please welcome guest author Henriette Lazaridis to Writer Unboxed today! Henriette’s new novel, TERRA NOVA, will be published by Pegasus Books in December 2022. Her debut novel, The Clover House, was a Boston Globe bestseller and a Target Emerging Authors pick. Her work has been published in such outlets as Elle, Forge, Narrative Magazine, The New York Times, New England Review, The Millions, WBUR’s Cognoscenti and Pangyrus, and she is a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant. Henriette earned degrees in English literature from Middlebury College, Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and the University of Pennsylvania. Having taught English at Harvard, she now teaches at GrubStreet in Boston. Visit her website at https://www.henriettelazaridis.com/. Linger, Tinker, Savor: Taking the Time to Get it Right I came to novel-writing later in life, after a career in academia. Though I’d decided as a teenager that I wanted more than anything to be a novelist, one thing led to another, and I detoured into scholarship and teaching at the university level, and then I was almost forty when I realized I’d strayed from my once-held dream. Starting “late”—or so I thought—I became a Woman in a Hurry. It’s not that I wrote massive amounts right away. Quite the contrary, in fact. I didn’t take myself seriously for a few years and kept undermining myself by engaging in all manner of other pursuits on top of (and often in place of) writing. But even then, I was in a hurry mentally. When I did finally get serious about writing novels, I wanted everything to happen fast. My first novel, The Clover House, set me up for some false expectations of speed to come. The novel went on sub on a Thursday and, by the Monday, I had phone interviews with three publishers. About three weeks later, I had a sale. This gave me the impression it would always go like this. You write the draft, you revise a little, you go on sub, and bingo, you sell. I imagined doing this on a sort of two-year timetable and queued up my ideas accordingly. Insert a pause for sad-maniacal laughter. No, the next manuscript I wrote did not go off into publication at lightning speed. Nor did the next one. But though the publishing world’s operations were slowing me down, I continued to write if not quickly then briskly. I began a third manuscript, and then set it aside to revise one of the two novels I’d already completed, reworking it under the skillful and attentive scrutiny of my then agent. Before the ink was barely dry on a finished draft of Terra Nova, I began and finished another manuscript, during the pandemic (didn’t everyone?), in a matter of months. The take-away from all these manuscripts bouncing around in my writerly existence isn’t the speed of their creation. That’s, in fact, the cautionary tale. The real lesson is that the ones that really succeeded were the product of time and slowness. Notice that while we have a nifty word for when things are fast—speed!—the word for when things are slow is awkward. Slowness? And yet, there it is: a word that takes as much drawn-out time to say as is fitting for its meaning. What worked best for me as a writer was Slowness. To go back and examine it, The Clover House was not in fact the product of a first draft wham-bang creation. I had spent years on and off trying out different approaches to the material I thought I wanted to fashion into fiction. I’d written at least two full manuscripts that no one but I would ever recognize as drafts of what became the final novel, but that were surely first attempts at that story. If you count all those versions and all those years, my debut novel was almost old enough to vote by the time it had its pub date. The same is true of my new novel, not only in its publication history but also and especially in its process. I began Terra Nova fresh off of the failure to sell a previous manuscript. I had two novel ideas in my head and was ambivalent about which to work on, wondering whether I should try to game the system with a book that would be sure to get me back into the on-sub-phone call-sale conveyor belt (to the extent that I had ever been on any kind of conveyor belt). Thankfully, I came to my senses about trying to game a system that’s not even a system. I chose to work on the novel that spoke to me, the novel that had been speaking to me for decades on and off. In the superstitious hope that this would help the book succeed, I determined to shake up my process. First and foremost, I decided to slow myself down. Instead of writing on my laptop, I wrote longhand. I used a fountain pen that required refilling with a plunger mechanism every six or seven pages. I wrote before dawn, in the winter, turning on only the light above the dining table where I set up my notebook and my coffee. And I will confess this, mindful that eventual readers of my new book might scoff: I vowed to write “superb prose.” I told myself I could write B+ or A- prose in my sleep. What I wanted with this novel was to write A+ prose. So I was going to slow the heck down and craft every sentence as if my life depended on it. It didn’t hurt that I began the book with four men and four dogs in Antarctica, trudging on skis across the ice because their life did depend on it. They were going slowly. So, I did too. I could lie to you now and say that I’ve maintained that slow approach ever since, and that I’ve become to writing what the Slow Food movement is to dining. In truth, dear reader, I relapsed, and wrote that pandemic novel super-fast. When that dust had settled, I jumped into the manuscript I’d set aside for it. But I caught myself. I had to remind myself that going fast with my manuscripts had led them to be sort of underbaked. I told myself: take your time. Don’t rush. This fall, as people were gearing up for NaNoWriMo, I joined a group who were sharing writing progress, but I set myself a goal of 200 words per day. That was it. 200 words. Of course, you can’t write a novel in a month at a rate of 200 words a day, nor did I plan to. What I did plan was to set the rhythm for the process I wanted to maintain even beyond November, for as long as it took. The glacial pace forced me to take time with my story; it allowed me to even revel in the bite-sized chunks I got down every day; most of all, it gave me time to think creatively and it re-energized my writing. We spend so much time being in a hurry. We tend to value speed (doesn’t it seem negative if I describe my pace as “glacial?”). Writing a novel takes time. It takes slowness. And to embrace slowness can demand a supreme braking effort in this cultural climate where speed and accumulation are most rewarded. It’s not a race. Nobody is holding a stopwatch on your manuscript. You’re the only one who knows if a milestone is passing or approaching. If you slow down, and embrace slowness, you’ll produce something better, I’m sure of it. Now, after a few decades at this writing thing, I’d rather linger than rush. I’d rather tinker than produce. I’d rather savor than consume. Join me in my slowness and maybe we can help each other take the time to get it right. What is your process? Do you write fast, slow, or do you mix it up? What has worked best for you traditionally? Does it change based on your book-in-progress? What do you know to be true about yourself on the other side of each of your projects? The floor is yours. [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  21. Some people’s gateway drug into crime fiction is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories. Others credit (or blame) Agatha Christie, or Ed McBain, or Raymond Chandler, or Sue Grafton for their addiction to books with a body count. My origin story is a passion for Edgar Allan Poe that has only grown deeper and richer than memorizing “The Raven” or watching the great Vincent Price/Roger Corman movies based on Poe’s tales, like “The Tomb Of Ligeia” and “The House of Usher.” I studied Poe in graduate school where the difference between his output and aspirations and those of other writers of his time is stark: he was not religious like Ralph Waldo Emerson; well-born like Nathaniel Hawthorne, or Identified with a particular region, like Henry David Thoreau. Poe was a restless soul and writer, jumping from poetry to short stories to criticism and from New York City to Boston to Baltimore, occasionally swinging by his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. What is often forgotten is that Poe also wrote about science; indeed, he considered his masterpiece to be “Eureka,” a meandering and tangled work Poe called a prose-poem about the material and spiritual worlds. Enter John Tresch, a historian of science who saw an overlooked science writer in Poe and produced a remarkable new study, The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science. Admittedly, Poe can be a Rorschach test for critics: I hadn’t thought about science, as I am fixated on his fixation with women who are dead or on their way there. Tresch’s biography opened up the possibility of a new Poe, and I was eager to learn more. Lisa: So how did you how did you end up writing this book? What’s your attraction to Poe? John: Well, I think he’s an intrinsically interesting writer and there’s all kinds of unexpected stuff buried in the stories. When you start to read some of the criticism, you realize how many games he’s playing and how many in-jokes he’s got—secret references and secret illusions and influences. Poe is really at the center of modernist literature of all kinds, including science writing. That totally shocked me only knowing him as a childhood author. Lisa. I was going to write my dissertation on why some of the best writers in American literature have now been relegated to reading for children—Poe, Louisa May Alcott, Hawthorne, Mark Twain. John: For me, Poe became a mystery I had to make sense of. It became my mission to write a different Poe. Not the madman, the guy who’s exploring psychopathology. Lisa: What’s interesting to me about Poe as a literary critic is that we don’t really look at his whole body of work and think about what it means. That’s why I found your book so intriguing. Poe had different aims than most of the writers of his time because he had to make a living. If he didn’t sell enough magazines, then he and [his wife] Virginia don’t eat. John: Exactly. Even though the more snooty critics and authors stay clear of what’s popular; what people wanted to read, it’s what’s selling the penny papers. When they got their magazines, they ran to the sensation tales. He’s taking the interest in the first person and sensation and subjectivity and aesthetic response and using it in his work. Lisa: The short stories were the stuff he had to produce in order to eat. Which is not to say he wasn’t invested in them. Some of them he’s quite invested in, but a lot of them are dashed off. When you’re a writer with a deadline, you recognize a writer with a deadline. John: There’s a lot of throwaways. I don’t spend too much time on some of the comic tales. Lisa: Poe is not funny. In general, things that are creepy aren’t funny. One of the things that’s fascinating is that Poe is so serious and yet we’ve relegated him to the school room. Americans think that Poe is something you read in elementary school and you make a diorama and there’s a body in a wall and that’s it. That’s the height of American literature. We did it to Hawthorne. We did it to Washington Irving. What does that say about America as a culture, as a canon? John: It’s not so good on its past. Lisa: Or it reinvents itself and gets rid of the things that don’t fall into line. John: In Poe’s case, there’s such an effort in the 19th century to set up Boston as the intellectual center of the country. Poe is not very Boston. He’s got a lot more edge to him, a lot more irony. A sense of the cruelty of the world. And he’s working in genres that don’t get taken as seriously. Lisa: I was just reading your take on “The Philosophy of Composition” [a lecture where Poe describes how he wrote his popular poem, “The Raven”]. His lectures are huge elaborate hoaxes for the most part, but they’re read very seriously. John: I think part of why he’s so interesting is that there’s always that double reading, sometimes a triple reading. You can like “The Philosophy of Composition.” You can take it at face value. And then you can step back and say, well, wait a minute. How could you have possibly done it like that? But there’s another level. I think he does hold very sincerely to the idea that he knew what effect he wanted and therefore he adapted his means to that end. His work has that massive density of meaning, which forces readings that are totally opposed to each other. Lisa: Absolutely. John: We’re totally hoaxing. Lisa: The reason we have trouble with Poe is that he doesn’t tow a line. He has a much more open point of view than the writers of his time. He’s not especially religious. He is ill and his illness becomes part of his persona, but his illness is also part of his life. He was a chronically ill person trying to make a living in a very difficult sphere. I think literary people want him to be more literary and he just isn’t. I mean, he cares about literature, but he messes with form. Poe is too weird to shove into a category. John: He’s always going to be the outsider. Lisa: That is an incredibly charged thing in 1830s and 1840s America. We are basically on the cusp of civil war. And he is either a Southern gentleman in the north or a literary Yankee who goes south. John: Exactly. And he plays both. Beyond the north-south division, which is forming at that time, all literary cultures are very regionally aware. His outsider status allows him to set the agenda for literature and decide what counts as good. Then he viciously tore down the things that he doesn’t think are good, which is why he’s dying his whole life to get his own magazine. He wants to be the owner and the editor-in-chief and call the shots. He feels this great pressure from the Rupert Murdochs of his time. You were saying that he’s always outside. He’s not welcomed by American letters. And I think that’s sort of true. He has his friends, he has the critics, he has his fellow writers, he’s got amazing moments—with Hawthorne, for example—where there’s a really appreciative exchange. And in New York, after the “Raven,” he’s the talk of the town. He is totally celebrated. He’s welcomed to all the salons and becomes very close friends with literary people in New York. It’s that success that’s perversely his undoing. It’s at the time when Virginia’s more ill [with tuberculosis] and he’s taking on more and more jobs. He starts to work for and then eventually takes over the editorial control of “The Broadway Journal.” He’s working like 18 hours a day. He’s republishing his own work, or plagiarizing his own work, and getting articles to put into “The Broadway Journal.” And he’s also drinking quite a bit. Lisa: To deal with the pressure. John: That’s when he burns all his bridges, Lisa: What you’re describing is the life of the average writer. John: Yeah. But I think it’s taken up to like— Lisa: Eleven. Poe always takes it to eleven. But Poe always thinks that like everybody hates him. I’m going to go to this other city. I’m going to try this other genre. I’m going to give these lectures about scientific topics to try and weasel my way into this other arena of publishing. John: Not just weasel my way in, but to put myself above it. Yes. I’m going to be beyond it all. No other literary figure could do what I’ve done. I’ve done a complete cosmology: an astronomical, philosophical account of the origin of the universe. I’ve blown away my competition. I’ve blown away all the scientific competition. I understand intuitively the critique of the philosophy of science at the time. I know exactly how the universe works, what the beating heart of the universe is. And I’ve justified that leap into discovery with the same arguments that I’ve been using for what makes for good literature. He moves into different genres, and into different audiences in order to get away from the ones he was in before and to be outside them. It’s always a one-upmanship. In “Eureka,” that last cosmological lecture, he’s taking on the literary establishment, and he’s taking on the scientific and philosophical establishment, but ultimately he’s taking on God. Lisa: Yes. John: Poe was oblivious sometimes: I won’t understand your motives. I won’t understand your plans. I won’t understand how you did it, just like Dupin in the detective stories. Poe says I can trace the clues and figure out exactly how you did it. Therefore, you didn’t outsmart me just like the criminals don’t outsmart Dupin. God does not outsmart Poe. Lisa: As you say in the book, Poe is all about puzzles and games and puns and allusions. To read Poe in a scholarly way is to have a whole bunch of reference materials around you. John: You have to be following behind him taking notes in order to figure out what he’s talking about and to figure out when he’s playing a game and what you should take straight. Lisa: There’s a way in which his trickery made people really angry, not only people in his time but the people who end up codifying what American literature is in the early 20th century. The question that’s often asked is why is Poe left out. Why did we erase the history of the American literary bestseller? Because it was mainly women’s fiction. By disregarding popular authors, it’s trying to codify itself as transcendent. There’s a real seriousness about art and Poe is actually a very serious artist for all of his trickery. What he wants more than anything is respect. John: That’s true. I think that combination of real seriousness—like here are my principles of criticism and literary evaluation, which are connected to the seriousness of the modern scientific revolution. There are huge new discoveries being made. And he speaks that language. He speaks with that authority of scientific certainty. That’s a big part of what I wanted to show. He makes his claim to literary acuity as he speaks like a scientist. He’s definitely serious about it, but he then makes use of that seriousness in popular literature and then invents these new genres, right? Which are hard. You don’t know how to make sense of them. There’s no name for science fiction. There’s no name for detective fiction yet. He invents new genres. It’s always about selling, about getting a readership and attracting readers who don’t appreciate the formal qualities of the work. The thing that I think drove American critics nuts about Poe was not only that he sold much more than the authors that they venerated as proper literature. But then he had this huge following among the people who were looked at as real authorities for literary taste in Europe. This is modern literature because it’s experimental, because it’s psychologically acute, because it’s not afraid of frightening subjects. It’s not afraid of the perversity of the human mind. It’s not afraid of the unconscious. It puts it all right there on the page. And in that lurid myth, in those shocking images, that’s where the field of experimentation for future literature lives. Americans took a very long time to get with that. View the full article
  22. Former academic and game designer turned librarian (and parent to a horde of minions), Clay Chiment has spent the better part of her life reading and falling down rabbit holes. This post was inspired by a story time selection about consent for young children. … Consent is sexy, but when it comes to children’s literature consent is colorful, creative, and more and more common. If you have small ones at home or are an honorary adult in a child’s life, check out these board books and picture books that model age appropriate ways to ask for, and give, the respect everyone deserves. A | BN | K For the smallest hands grab a copy of Will Ladybug Hug? By Hilary Leung. The artwork is simple, the pages are uncluttered, and the question/answer format lets even the littlest littles anticipate and join in the fun of asking each friend in turn if they would like a hug. There are several books in this series so if you enjoy Ladybug make sure you look for the others! For those who are ready for a touch of dramatic tension in their board book, grab Huggy the Python Hugs too Hard by Ame Dyckman. Huggy loves to squeeze but sometimes a tight hug isn’t appreciated. This book is more interactive, with the reader participating in demonstrating a gentle touch for Huggy and celebrating each success along the way. The artwork is colorful and Huggy is an extremely dapper python but if a child is afraid of snakes…give this one a pass! Picture books are fantastic for any age, and if you have an opinionated little one running about give More Than Fluff by Madeline Valentine a try. This book follows the adventures of Daisy, a very fluffy little chick who wants to be taken seriously by her community. While the language might be a little too “direct” for some readers (as she learns to express her boundaries, Daisy responds to the announcement that it is time for her daily cuddle with “Actually, it’s time for you to give me some personal space”) this picture book covers important ground when it comes to apologizing and making amends for those times when overstimulation causes unintentional hurt, and the ways in which Daisy learns to connect to each member of her community provide a wonderful framework for future discussions. A | BN | K If you’re looking for a more traditional rhyming read aloud, Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes is a bouncy book perfect for sensitive kiddos who need a little support when it comes to exploring boundaries. Rissy is a Lovebird, but she doesn’t like kisses (and we know from the text that all lovebirds love kisses). Rissy’s family and friends wonder if Rissy is rude, or mean, or sick but with reassurances from her adults, Rissy comes to celebrate the ways in which she enjoys expressing and receiving affection. This is a great book for teaching body autonomy, but also for reassuring a child who feels different from their peers for whatever reason. The stories on this list all explore ideas of sharing and consent in different ways from different points of view. Not every story will be a good fit for every child so pre-reading is key. Your local librarian can help you find a perfect match! Board Books: Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard by Ame Dyckman ( A | BN | K ) Will Ladybug Hug? by Hilary Leung ( A | BN | K ) Yes! No! (a first conversation about consent) by Megan Madison ( A | BN | K ) May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp ( A | BN | K ) Picture Books: Hug? by Charlene Chua ( A | BN | K ) Don’t Hug Doug (he doesn’t like it) by Carrie Finison ( A | BN | K ) Nobody Hugs a Cactus by Carter Goodrich ( A | BN | K | AB ) Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes ( A | BN | K ) You Know How to Love by Rachel Tawil Kenyon ( A | BN | K ) Miles is the Boss of His Body by Abbie Schiller and Samantha Kurtzman-Counter ( A | BN ) Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller ( A | BN | K ) More Than Fluff by Madeline Valentine ( A | BN | K ) The Perfect Hug by Joanna Walsh ( A | BN | K ) Action Books: Let’s talk about body boundaries, consent & respect by Janeen Sanders ( A | BN ) Consent (for Kids!): boundaries, respect, and being in charge of YOU by Rachel Brian ( A | BN | K ) View the full article
  23. The transcript for Podcast 539. Wishes, Wins, and Best of 2022 with Sue, JFHobbit, and Maria Vale has been posted! This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks. ❤ Click here to subscribe to The Podcast → View the full article
  24. Every Rogue Has His Charm Every Rogue Has His Charm by Susanna Craig is $1.99! This is book four in the Love and Let Spy series. Prior books in the series have been favorably reviewed on the site and this one was mentioned in a Hide Your Wallet. Love, intrigue, and a fresh spin on historical romance make a sexy and suspenseful mix in the latest novel in Susanna Craig’s Regency-set series—as the wife one man left behind becomes the woman he can’t live without… Caroline, Marchioness of Chesleigh, has been married for six years—at least in name. In fact, Caro has hardly seen her husband since the early days of their union. Scarred and reclusive, Maxim wasn’t ready to trust his wife with his secrets—or his heart. Instead, he quickly resumed his life of espionage in France, believing Caro was better off alone. When the spy who left her returns upon inheriting the Dukedom, he finds his wife is not the girl she once was. Her heart is a little harder. She’s learned to stand on her own. Yet the desire that once ignited between them burns as hotly as ever… Now, the more Caro learns about the past Maxim tried to hide from her, the deeper their bond grows. But danger haunts her husband’s every move, jeopardizing their passionate reunion… Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is $2.99! This was mentioned on a previous Hide Your Wallet and Moreno-Garcia’s books are usually worth a read. Not sure how this one compares to Mexican Gothic. Feel free to sound off in the comments! From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic and Velvet Was the Night comes a dreamy reimagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Mexico. Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman. Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers. The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities. All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction. For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Cackle RECOMMENDED: Cackle by Rachel Harrison is $1.99! I really love the new cover. Carrie read this one and gave it B+: Cackle is a feminist and creepy yet cosy read that asks us to explore the boundaries between an empowering friendship and a toxic one. A darkly funny, frightening novel about a young woman learning how to take what she wants from a witch who may be too good to be true, from the author of The Return. All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching position that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. She’s stunned by how perfect and picturesque the town is. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is dreamy too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation. Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologizing and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the townsfolk seem…a little afraid of her. And like, okay. There are some things. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power…but she couldn’t be…could she? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Broken Girls The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is $1.99! James is a bit of a favorite here, especially with Elyse, and tends to write historical fiction with mystery and romantic elements. This one jumps between 1950 and 2014 Vermont. Are you a fan? The “clever and wonderfully chilling” (Fiona Barton) suspense novel from the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare… Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . . Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case. When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  25. Alba de Céspedes pictured in the Italian magazine Epoca, vol. VII, no. 86, May 31, 1952. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Forbidden evokes, to my English-speaking ear, the biblical fruit whose consumption leads to shame and expulsion from Paradise. Eve’s story is not irrelevant to a novel like Alba de Céspedes’s Forbidden Notebook, in which a woman succumbs to a temptation: to record her thoughts and observations. Valeria Cossati’s impulse to keep a diary leads not so much to the knowledge of good and evil as it does to the self-knowledge advocated by Socrates and serving as a cornerstone of philosophical inquiry ever since. In Valeria’s case, it also leads to solitude, alienation, guilt, and painful lucidity. The Italian title of Forbidden Notebook is Quaderno proibito—literally translated, “prohibited notebook.” Forbidden and prohibited may be interchangeable in English, but the latter lacks the romance that might soften the former (as in “forbidden love”), and connotes instead legal restrictions, interdictions, and punishment. The word prohibited comes from the Latin verb prohibere (its roots mean, essentially, “to hold away”), which was fundamental to legal terminology in Ancient Rome. It is the word de Céspedes chooses to describe Valeria’s notebook, and to interrogate, more broadly, a woman’s right, in postwar Italy, to express herself in writing, to have a voice, and to hold opinions and secrets that distinguish herself from her family. The act of purchasing the eponymous notebook, along with the ongoing dilemma of how to conceal it, drives the tension as the novel opens. Having purchased it illegally and smuggled it home, Valeria hides it in various locations—in a sack of rags, an old trunk, an empty biscuit tin. But she always runs the risk of it being discovered by her husband and grown children, all of whom laugh at the mere idea that she might want to keep a diary. As soon as she buys the notebook, Valeria is anxious and afraid, but she is also armed—for although acquiring a diary throws her into crisis, the quaderno is both an object and a place, both a literary practice and a room of one’s own. In lieu of walls and a door, pen and paper suffice to allow Valeria, albeit furtively, to speak her mind. Thematically, I would call this book a direct descendant of Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking treatise and Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. It’s just that Valeria does not consider herself an author but rather a traditional homemaker. Her writing is surreptitious, and she must lie to tell the truth. De Céspedes was herself a writer and a diarist; Forbidden Notebook fuses these forms and disciplines. The diary was for her (as it is for so many writers) preparatory ground not only for her artistry in general but for a series of searing first-person female protagonists who are at once invented and real. Melania Mazzucco quotes from de Céspedes’s diaries in her introduction to the 2021 reissue of Dalla parte di lei (From her side). Already in that novel published in 1949—which is also concerned with women’s rights and roles—de Céspedes is experimenting (as the title clearly suggests) with an intimate first-person female narrative. Three years later, in Quaderno proibito, the diary commands center stage. The private becoming public, the individual subject dividing, and the writer becoming her own reader and vice versa—the diary, an elusive, elastic container, straddles all this and more. Diary writing may be the most private of forms, but when placed within the context of a novel or when it serves, as it does here, as the structure of the novel itself, this form of confession—dating back, at least in the Western tradition, to Augustine—contradicts its very nature. From Petrarch to Gramsci to Woolf to Lessing, all diaries and notebooks, whether intended for publication or not, whether invented by their authors or not, whether framed as (or within) novels or not, are dialogues with the self. They are instances of self-doubling and self-fashioning. They are declarations of autonomy, counternarratives that contrast with and contradict reality. The form of the fictionalized diary has always been especially appealing in that we get to know the character not only as a person but also as a writer. This additional authorial persona is especially provocative in light of the fact that female consciousness has struggled to find its place in history and in the literary tradition. In her diary de Céspedes confides, “I will never be a great writer.” Here I take her to task for not knowing something about herself—for she was a great writer, a subversive writer, a writer censored by fascists, a writer who refused to take part in literary prizes, a writer ahead of her time. In my view, she is one of Italy’s most cosmopolitan, incendiary, insightful, and overlooked. Whether or not we choose to read Forbidden Notebook through a feminist lens, it is a radical novel. Freshly translated by Ann Goldstein with her signature energy, it blazes with significance. Women’s words are still laughed at, still silenced, still considered dangerous. De Céspedes vindicates, artfully and ardently, a woman’s right to write—a right that must never be taken for granted. Ironically, the harshest condemnation in Forbidden Notebook is generated by Valeria herself, who both speaks and threatens to cancel herself out at the same time. I discovered de Céspedes when I was researching for and assembling The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories, an anthology that featured forty Italian authors who were writing short fiction in the twentieth century. I included one of her short stories in that volume and was curious to read more of her work. An Italian friend suggested I read Quaderno proibito, and I was lucky enough to find a used paperback copy at my local flea market in Rome. Mondadori has recently reissued a few of her books, but even seven years ago it was hard to find her titles in Italian bookstores and very few people mentioned her work. She was one of those amazing authors and literary figures that most people had stopped reading and had largely forgotten about. I have kept a diary for decades, and I also teach a course on the diary as literary practice and form, so reading this novel was doubly exciting for me. Jhumpa Lahiri teaches creative writing and literary translation at Barnard College. A writer in both English and Italian, she is the author of Interpreter of Maladies, which won the Pulitzer Prize. This is an adapted extract of the foreword to Ann Goldstein’s English translation of Forbidden Notebook by Alba de Céspedes, forthcoming from Astra House in January. View the full article
  26. Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the U.S., and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English/political science, and from Northwestern School of Law with a JD. She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is most happy writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded, lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel. Welcome to the Hive Olesya, and congratulations on the release of your debut novel! How does it feel to know your book is out there on shelves? Thank you! It really is an incredible, out of body experience to see a book I wrote on the shelves! But I must confess, I still can’t really believe it. One of the most unforgettable memories from release was going into a bookstore I visited as a young girl, seeing my book staring back at me at the very front, and signing those first few copies, with my husband and parents cheering me on! It still brings tears to my eyes, it was so special. What a very special moment that must have been! What can readers expect from The Witch and the Tsar? A different perspective on the notorious Slavic fairy tale personage of Baba Yaga. But she isn’t the old, evil hag we know. She is a half goddess, half human healer, but first and foremost, she is a woman. Readers can also expect a real world, as the novel is set in real-life 16th century Russia, with real though fictionalized historical events and characters. And they can also expect lots of romance and adventure in the vein of some of my favorite adventure novels, by Rafael Sabatini, Baroness Orczy, and Alexander Dumas. There’s a lot to unpack with this novel, so let’s start with the Slavic fairytale root of Baba Yaga. Retellings are very popular right now, with Greek ones cornering the market somewhat with their feminist takes on the masculine hero stories. What were your aims for your own retelling? You said it right there! After reading Madeline Miller’s Circe, I had the idea to tackle a retelling of a witch with a major presence in my life, Baba Yaga. That would explain the strong Circe vibes I’ve been getting from it! In the vein of the Greek retellings, my aim was to show a different side of her character that maybe people have not heard about before. This idea is rooted in the fact that many scholars believe the Baba Yaga we know is a version or a descendant of an earth and fertility goddess that ancient Slavs worshipped. I instantly became interested in the concept of how a goddess was turned into a witch – and an old, ugly one at that – seeking to reframe Baba Yaga by imagining what she could have been like if she were a goddess and a human woman both, before the rumors and tales had reduced her to a silly old crone. I wanted to reinvent her as a living, breathing woman, extraordinary yet relatable, multi-dimensional, and most importantly, real. And I would call her simply Yaga. On a similar note to my last question, there is a strong feminist message in a woman having to disguise her wisdom in lies and ritual? There is certainly that message because that is what women have had to do for centuries. To hide their wisdom, their intellectual curiosity, their ambitions and interests. Or they were not only branded as witches and sorceresses and other evil beings, but put on trial (both in court and in the arena of public opinion) to defend their beliefs, and their lives. It is another reason why I decided to approach Baba Yaga the way I did: to show a woman who has been unfairly judged by the society of her day simply because she is different in not conforming to its social mores and expectations. When Yaga first comes to Moscow, there is that element of disguise; she knows she must look like she’s conforming because that is survival at Tsar Ivan the Terrible’s court. She then must work very hard throughout the novel to become at peace with herself and to fully embrace being a powerful witch and woman, unapologetically and without disguise. It’s a similar theme to that found in Madeline Miller’s Circe, as we’ve discussed, but also in the works of Angela Carter. Outside of the original fairy tale, what were your other influences? You just named two of my biggest ones! I love what Madeline Miller did for Circe; in fact, it was after reading her novel that I realized I could retell not only a classic story, a classic character, but the tale of a supposed villainess. I love Angela Carter for her delightful subversiveness and dream-like language, which I try to emulate, as well as the dark fairy tale storytelling tone of Catherynne M. Valente. Another influence was Katherine Arden for paving the way for Slavic folklore retellings and medieval settings. Other influences, as per above, were the classical adventure writers and poets like Aleksander Pushkin, who wrote about huts spinning on chicken legs in the woods. Lastly, I must mention Philippa Gregory, who was the first author to draw me into modern historical fiction centered on women and therefore, retellings in their own right. Ah yes! Now you mention Gregory, your Kremlin certainly has the dark, claustrophobic feel of her Tudor court! Let’s talk about the importance of the historical setting. What made you choose the sixteenth century? I wanted to set my novel in a specific historical time period because Yaga felt more real to me this way, if I could envision her living in the real world–our world. Medieval times came quite naturally to my story. I’ve always been obsessed with this time period, starting with my mania for the Tudors of England, the Valois of France, the Ruriks of Russia. And I chose Ivan as my antagonist because he was the first true Russian tsar. He is also a very famous tsar in Russia, arguably as part of the popular culture as Baba Yaga herself. He was an autocratic ruler, was paranoid and constantly felt his power threatened, and was incredibly superstitious. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that he would invite a witch and healer like Yaga to his royal court. So, the sixteenth century it was. Your portrayal of Tsar Ivan as he becomes increasingly volatile on his path to becoming Ivan the Terrible – how important was it to you to hold up a mirror to current events through a historical figure? When I started the book in the fall of 2018, I wasn’t specifically writing to current events. Rather, I was focused on the time period and my portrayal of Ivan and his rule as I saw them. After all, Russian history is peppered with autocratic rulers who frequently oppressed their people–with a realpolitik way of ruling that some historians believe was a result of centuries of Mongol occupation. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Ivan’s character and rule has taken on a deeper meaning, and a new kind of relevancy. It is more important than ever to tell these stories from the past and to reveal parts of Russian history the Western world may not know to illuminate the present, to help understand and give context to the tragedy unfolding in the region today, even in some small way. What are your thoughts on the current popularity of mythological retellings and the importance of their evolution? These stories are critical because they give folkloric and mythological characters, as well as historical figures, lives and voices they did not previously have. What we know about most women from history is they lived, they gave birth, and they died. Folkloric and mythological characters are similar in that their roles were strictly reduced to idealistic “good” heroine or hag-like “evil” witch, bit players, caricatures. Ivan Bilibin, Baba Yaga, illustration in 1911 from “The tale of the three tsar’s wonders and of Ivashka, the priest’s son” (A. S. Roslavlev) Baba Yaga, for example, is frequently portrayed as a figure of ridicule and laughter, not to mention a villainous old woman and cannibal. She is told what to do by the male characters in her own stories, has body parts made of iron, and is even said to take on male characteristics and various deformities. She never has a voice of her own. In Russian fairy tale film adaptations, Baba Yaga is even played by a man. I believe readers are tired of this simplistic and frankly sexist view of women. We not only wish to give these women their voices, but to humanize them, to make them real and multidimensional, to give them their stories back by finding new perspectives and approaches to them. It is time for their stories to take center stage. A necessary component of this evolution is for readers to move on from their entrenched notions of what these female characters should be and envision what they could be. There are some readers who have questioned why I chose to portray Baba Yaga the way I have, lamenting the fact that all they wanted was the hag they know from folklore. But isn’t this a reflection of the same notions and beliefs that we have been taught to embrace since we were children? As the tagline for my book says, “Sometimes the true story is cloaked in lies to hide its power.” It is important for readers to open themselves up to the possibility that not all is as it seems. And that truth may be more layered, more hidden, and more beautiful than we ever imagined. I whole heartedly agree with you, that’s a fantastic answer! Let’s talk about magic for a moment. It’s an important ingredient in any fantasy novel, but is usually more ethereal in myths. How have you approached magic in The Witch and the Tsar? As with everything in the book, I have tried to make the magic real, accessible, and most importantly, the kind that might exist–if one looks hard enough. To do this, I used as its foundation real Slavic pagan and folk magic, ritual, and superstitions, even some that my family has whispered about for years! If you were a witch who possessed magic, what would your affinity be? What kinds of spells would you cast? I love Yaga’s magic–it is delightfully wild and witchy, steeped as it is in herbs, charms, and blood rituals. But it’s also very real and tangible. Most of all, I love the idea of helping women. I have always joked that if I were a doctor like my sister, I would want to treat women most of all. So, I love how Yaga comes through for the ladies, not only in times of illness, but also in helping with their love lives, their marriages, their heartaches, their babies, and so on. I find these issues to be the most fascinating, and ones where spellcasting would be particularly useful and selfishly good to know–and they come with a dash of gossip and drama as well! One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why? This is a fantastic question I’ve never heard before! A fire-breathing dragon, or zmey in Russian folklore, would be pretty unbeatable, for who could beat a creature breathing flames? But an alkonost from Slavic mythology would also be cool. The alkonost is a fierce creature with the head of a woman and the body of a bird. They can fly and are known for their beguiling siren-like singing. We would just put everyone in battle under our spell! A wonderful insight into your tactics! Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems? I love, love Stardust by Neil Gaiman. It is a small book, but is quite literally enchanting. The fairy tale world Gaiman creates is filled with a magic that breathes with life, whimsical and entertaining characters, and a romance that takes your breath away. It is fantastical and gritty and charming all at once. And I love the film adaptation, too! Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share? I am thrilled to be working on my second novel with Harper Voyager UK, a historical gothic horror tale in the vein of A Gentleman in Moscow meets The Hacienda, in which two sisters risk all to save each other and their family from their ancestral house bent on bringing back a royal past not only dead, but dangerous to remember in post-revolutionary Moscow. Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing? Magic–and truth–is found where you least expect it. Thank you so much for joining us today! Thank you so much for having me! The Witch and the Tsar will be released on the 8th of December 2022. You can pre-order your copy HERE The post Interview with Olesya Salnikova Gilmore (THE WITCH AND THE TSAR) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  27. Photo by author Recently, in his writer’s newsletter, Story Club, George Saunders wrote about packing for a move and completing what he called a “death cleaning”, which is not his concept, but a Swedish one, he explained, where a person edits their belongings before death, in order to simplify things for their survivors. I’ve been doing some of my own death cleaning lately (I’m just fine, BTW, nothing dire to see here), and I admit that just maybe, there is a little teensy smidge of avoidance behavior going on. I tell myself it’s a good time to set my novel-in progress aside for a bit and then go back to it with fresh eyes after the holidays. Anyway, I started the Big Clean in my studio (see above), which was originally built in the 1920s as a bunkhouse on our farmhouse property. It might have held two sets of bunk beds in its prime, and originally had a wood stove. It has no central heat, air conditioning, or plumbing, but it is MINE—my she-shed, or whatever. Honestly, I hate that term. But I digress. For the twenty-two years I’ve lived here, it has been my place. I began by sorting a bin of tangled needlepoint yarn in a mélange of harshly bright 1970s shades. There were four unfinished needlework projects—two by me and two I inherited from a friend of my mother’s when she died, comprising one knotty, half-finished, floral pillow cover and a just-started monogrammed tennis racket cover. I’ve no idea whose monogram it is (was?), and the cover is small enough to fit a 1970s-era wooden racquet. Toss! Next, I found the accoutrement required to make a smocked infant garment, given to me by a friend who taught me this craft twenty-some years ago, before the birth of my daughter. Back then, I completed one dress and thought I’d rather go through first-stage labor again than start another smocking project. And so it went. Bin by bin, I had to decide which things I might use again someday. I still knit obsessively, so my yarn stash and pattern books remain. My newest hobby, originated during lockdown, is knitting little 7” forest animals with clothes, and making rooms for them and telling their stories @tinyfoxstory on Instagram. So there are myriad minuscule fiddly bits to misplace and step on. My three sewing machines stay in use these days mainly for repairing chewed dog beds. I’ll also save craft supplies I hope to use with my toddler granddaughter someday. Pneumatic upholstery stapler? Nah. From a post on Instagram by the brilliant cartoonist Roz Chast @rozchast, I found an organization in New York called Materials for the Arts, a government-sponsored “creative reuse center.” They are happy to accept donations of beads, buttons, fabrics, art supplies, etc. So boxing up things to mail off kept me busy for a good few days and produced a flattering glow of accomplishment. I tossed! I culled! I donated! My Marie-Kondo-inspired self (have not read, BTW) was feeling pretty pumped by now—warmed up and ruthless. It was time to double down and tackle the alternate function of my bunkhouse: writing. In addition to cabinets of sewing and craft supplies, I have file boxes and a shelf unit of materials acquired while researching my first two novels. I have books on everything from candy making to multiple biographies of Josephine Baker, to a depressing coffee-table photo book about children in the Great Depression. In full-on death-cleaning mode, I packed up about a third of these to take to my local library’s annual book sale. Each volume had served me, and now, I wondered, would anyone else want them? I have a stack of advance reader copies of my first novel. What to do with them? I gave some away a while back, and then stopped when a reader who had one complained in an Amazon review that the book had typos. Argh. That’s why we have ARCs. I gave away a lot of “how to write a novel” books I bought before I started my MFA, when I was just beginning this journey nine years ago. It’s not that I don’t still have a lot to learn, I do. Oh, I do. But there are only a few craft books I find myself returning to, or keeping for sentimental reasons. One favorite I still use is Janet Burroway with Elizabeth and Ned Stuckey French’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, now in its tenth edition. Other old friends are One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Another resource that deserves space on any aspiring writer’s shelf, IMHO, is Courtney Maum’s very real and practical Before and After the Book Deal. By the way, some of these would make great holiday gifts. From the bookcases, I moved on to files, including boxes filled with pads of notes of research and drafts of my first two novels, both published now. The first notepads I had specifically for creative writing came from the Levenger Catalog. For Christmas 2015, right before I started my MFA program, my sweet husband gave me a stack of these deluxe, gold-bound pads with thick, high-quality, gold-edged paper, which I ultimately found intimidating. They were Toni Morrison-Donna Tartt-quality note pads. My scribbles didn’t seem worthy. For the long term, I settled instead on a more modest model, of recycled paper, which I buy in bulk, also from Levenger. The paper is great to write on. So I had maybe fifteen of these babies, numbered and organized by date and novel. I flipped through each one. Since my lockdown transition from Word to Scrivener, I keep a lot of research in the project file on my laptop. For my current novel-in-progress, I’ve filled about six notepads. The last time I sorted and culled the notes to use going forward, I unearthed these pithy take-away notes-to-self: 1. Dead air—cat fight? 2. They do the dirty deed. 3. This is important shit here! 4. No Dukes, FFS! 5. This is all so juvenile. Somehow, I can’t envision the archive of Liza Nash Taylor’s author’s notes being presented to the Library of Congress. After viewing notepads from novels one and two, I ended up tossing most of them. Toss, toss, toss, whee! This cleaning-editing-choosing-what-has-future-value requires subjective judgment. If I keep something, it has either ongoing value as inspirational material, or sentimental value. And I’m not a particularly sentimental person. I’ve already tossed the birthday cards you sent me in October. The harder judgment of what to keep or toss involves the definition of what serves me NOW, and that raises the tricky question: Where AM I, at present, as a writer? And then comes the sneaky, impostor-syndrome-voice I’ve named Icky, who asks: Yeah, where ARE you? Does your present work have value? I think not. My two traditionally published historical novels came out in August 2020 and August 2021. My pandemic babies. Hope springs eternal, and I’m working hard on a third. As with my first two, this WIP has its own shelf filled with research including contemporaneous early 1950s novels, memoirs of fashion models, technical guides for couture beadwork and sewing, issues of Life and Look and fashion magazines from the 1950s. I have a wall-sized bulletin board filled with inspirational fashion photos, pinned alongside a copy of the check I received for my first payment for my writing ($75, for second place in a contest). It’s there with my daughter’s childhood tempera paintings and postcards from Paris museums. So maybe I’m not completely lacking in sentimentality. As writers, when we reorganize our space, or records, or research, we are choosing what to carry forward. What I’ve found with this death cleaning project is that I felt a need to redefine the use of my space to best serve me now. In doing so, I’ve found myself confronting what I will do in the future. In making room for the background materials for my novel-in-progress, I’m creating space for it as an entity as valuable to me as my two published books. That feeling, in itself, makes the effort worthwhile. So, where am I right now, as a writer? I’m a published novelist hard at work on a new manuscript. Will I ever reupholster an armchair? Almost certainly not. Will I finish this novel draft? Hell, yes, and shut the heck up, Icky. I’m not making room for you here. How do you decide what to carry forward to support your writing? Which craft books do you treasure? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  28. We're proud to announce our reader review event for The Attractiveness of Wisdom by Judy Kelly. Read the reviews of this romantic Christian novel and our interview with the author. Don't forget to enter to win a copy of the book as well! First, about the book The Attractiveness of Wisdom: After a tumultuous marriage and a struggle trying to keep it together, Hamilton, a university dean, sets out on a perilous emotional journey to change his life and seek the love he's always wanted. He has tried to control his life and the lives of others. Hamilton meets Franny, a troubled dance teacher, and accepts her job offer of organizer in her studio. When Franny injures her foot, Hamilton must step out of his secure place to help. His trepidation increases when he meets a research journalist who falls in love with him. But her life isn't what it seems. He fears controlling her, and after her convent life, she needs his love. Will Hamilton wise up and learn how a man truly loves a woman, the value of friendship and the need for prayer? The Attractiveness of Wisdom is a Christian literary fiction, heart-warming, enthralling novel with endearing and unforgettable characters. Publisher: Black Rose Writing (November 2021)ISBN-10: 1684338506ISBN-13: 978-1684338504ASIN: B09L1FRK6CPrint length: 341 pages The Attractiveness of Wisdom is available to purchase on Amazon, Black Rose Writing, and Bookshelf.com. You can also add the book to your GoodReads reading list. What WOW readers said: "This is a heart-warming, Christian, literary fiction novel with endearing characters. The value of friendship and family are important themes in the book. So many people get divorced nowadays that we don't often stop to think how that impacts all the parties involved. If you like books that make you think about your life and how you're living it, then I would recommend this book." ~Michelle Cornish "What a charming book! This is about a man who learned how to let go and let God. Hamilton starts out struggling with losing control after the falling apart of his marriage. He then has to take a sabbatical from work for health reasons. He ends up helping out a woman running a dance studio and that eventually leads him to Emma. What a transformation! This is a heart-warming tale of love and learning to change your own ways. I absolutely recommend it. It's a worthy, unforgettable read." ~Nicole Pyles "This is quite an exploration of a personality in need of transformation. Hamilton starts out as very controlling. He thinks he knows best and tells others how to do things, including his wife. That turned out to be a disaster and led to a divorce. Even when he takes a sabbatical from his university position and works in a dance studio, he thinks everything should be done his way. "The novel follows Hamilton's experiences as he learns the damage his attitude has caused. This novel is his story of learning he can't control everything. He ultimately, though very reluctantly, comes to find God is in control. He has the healing experience of finally loving another while letting go of his controlling attitude. "Kelly has given readers a touching story of possible romance. It is also about loss and how people make their way through it. Primarily I think it is about coming to grips with letting God have His way, shown through the life of Hamilton. Kelly's writing style is straightforward and easy to understand. The plot moves at a consistent, methodical pace. This novel would appeal to readers who like a novel centered on the events experienced by one man as he learns to let go of control in order to experience love." ~Joan Nienhuis "This book recounts the spiritual journey of a middle-aged man through divorce, parental relationship epiphanies and new love. I so appreciated the authors skillful way of painting a love scene that was tender, passionate and not graphic. I felt that the inclusion of the spiritual side of these characters gave the story greater depth. I would recommend this book to my daughters and friends." ~Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, M.Ed. "Such an interesting romance! Definitely reminded me of some personality traits in myself and others - I enjoyed the storyline and did some self-reflecting along the way!" ~ Crystal Otto "What makes wisdom attractive? The ability to listen definitely helps. So does the release of controlling behaviors. In Judy Kelly’s The Attractiveness of Wisdom, Hamilton is divorced from a woman who considers him too controlling. He doesn’t even know he’s acting that way as we see in his interactions with his children, who love and tolerate him and a group of dancers who aren’t nearly as polite. Everybody has their own way of doing things, and his is not always the right way, a lesson he faces repeatedly as the book progresses. There are some good plot points moving the story forward and the look at romance, where things went wrong, and second chances, will help those involved in a relationship with a shaky partner. Author Judy Kelly has picked a subject with a great deal of potential. Despite a few proofreading glitches this story can open a reader’s eyes to the power of letting go." ~B. Lynn Goodwin About the Author, Judy Kelly Writing has been a passion of Judy's as far back as she can remember. In her early teens, she wrote stories in notebooks and when she finished one, she went on to the next one. When she wasn’t writing, she was reading. The fact that a person could write something down, and it could be written in a book for others to read and enjoy, and these books were housed in a place called a library, really fascinated Judy. After earning a Master’s degree, and while she earned the ED.S., Judy taught students who were fourth and fifth grade learning-disabled students. The reading books that were required for them were the same for the general education population, but during that time, there was a tendency of some teachers to implement a different curriculum for children who were learning-disabled. These strategies were designed to improve the students’ learning ability so that they could learn to read, write and do all the things the general education students were doing. The problem was that the program was a year long, and year after year, the students got farther and farther behind. So, Judy ditched all that and taught them reading, and all the other things that the general education students were learning. When Judy's students began their reading program, they hardly knew any words. She used to tell them stories that she would make up on the spot that were designed to help them with vocabulary, comprehension, and the other concepts they needed to learn to read. They asked her if her stories were written down. She went home and wrote some stories for them and those stories were used in place of the books. That was when Judy began to look at writing as not just something to write and tuck away. The students were enjoying the stories and she could see that she needed to take writing seriously. One day her students told her that her stories sounded like “the real stories in a real bookstore.” That was the beginning of her writing career. You can follow Judy on her website: https://judycar.com/. You can also find her on Facebook too. ---- Interview by Nicole Pyles WOW: Congratulations on your book! What inspired you to write this book? Judy: As a healing prayer minister, I encounter people who want prayer for their emotional, physical, or spiritual life. Something happened to them in the past and they want to make a change in their lives. They come for prayer, and we pray. Prayer is the beginning. There is no magic to prayer; we pray a special prayer and puff, you're a changed person. Prayer doesn't work like that. Prayer is ongoing with change. Years ago, I realized I had a poor self-concept. To protect myself from condescending words and attacks from the people around me, I built a wall around myself. I kept people away from me. At work or at school, when it came time for employees and teachers to work with a group on a project, I was never chosen. I would be invited to things that everyone was expected to attend. I can't tell you the number of activities I was left out of, even when people made plans in my presence. Over the years, I could have turned into someone hateful and mean. I wanted to push people away and they went away. This continued before I got tired of it. I prayed for help. I wanted and needed to make a change in my life. With God's help (and He still helps) I made a change from someone no one wanted to befriend to someone people love. Now, I believe if you don't like who you are, then change. I did. But you can only do that with God's help, and it does not happen overnight, though I often wished it could. I have worked my way back to being someone more human, someone people can talk to, learn from, and enjoy. Me, my inspiration came from my personal experience. WOW: I believe the same as well. Change is only possible with God! Are you a planner or a "pantser" when it comes to writing your book? Judy: When I read a story, I look for the story beneath the story I read on the page. Some stories don't have that story beneath the story. So far, including The Attractiveness of Wisdom, all three novels have a story beneath the story on the page. When it comes to planning or pantser, I do what's needed. For this story, I had to be a planner. Since the novel is Christian Literary Fiction, it must be written according to the conventions of Christian fiction. It must contain the Christian way of life and show love. I needed the reader to see how change can occur. I start with a character who is flawed. Everybody I know has flaws, and based on that, I can say that most of us have flaws. People can relate to someone who is flawed, but I also wanted people to see that Hamilton is much like the readers; he also has good qualities. Hamilton believes he must control his life and the lives of others. Hamilton ended up in a dance studio trying to teach dance because that environment would be exceedingly difficult for someone who is trying NOT to control. In an artistic world, people use their own skill and abilities to accomplish a step, a stroke on a canvas or lyrics. I knew it would be difficult for him. In the studio, the reader could see him trying to make a change. But that was not all I wanted to bring out in that dance studio. Hamilton met a couple who had been together for years. He saw the couple make mistakes, get upset with each other but they continued dancing. I wanted to represent marriage through the couple. He saw why they were together for so long and thought about his marriage and how they were so broken. He met a woman who taught him how to be a friend and just listen when she needed it and offer help when she needed it. Again, he thought about his marriage and how he really didn't listen and the help he offered was more of an effort to control her life. He saw a person in trouble and without asking, tried to help her. When she turned him away, he pushed harder until she finally gave in. In her, he saw what it looks like to control a person. This made him think about his marriage and how he controlled his wife. In a Christian world, when one is called to help someone, that person receives the help they need at the same time. I tried to make that happen in the dance studio. Even though it seemed like people just dancing, for Hamilton I wanted the dance studio to be more for him. As the reader sees Hamilton grow, each of the three women he meets, teaches him something. WOW: I love how you look for the story underneath the story. What has it been like to publish with Black Rose Writing? Judy: I like this publishing company very much. The people in the company that assist during the publishing process are great. The owner does his homework, finds out about marketing tools, and brings us the newest marketing opportunities, such as WOW. I try to take advantage of as many as I can, but even with a discount, it can be difficult. I highly recommend Black Rose Writing. WOW: That's awesome! You have such good character development in this book. What is your technique to build such strong characters? Judy: Characters are not props. My characters are not actors in my mind. I think of my characters as "real" people. They are whole and alive and have experiences. They have jobs. They have their likes and dislikes. They may have something to hide. They have feelings and can get hurt or they can be the people who hurt. Each of my characters has their own backstory. Backstory is what makes a person, so backstory is what I give to my characters. WOW: That really helps create fully complete people, not just names on a page. Christianity is such a core element of this story and I love how it guided your character in his actions. How does your faith guide you in your writing? Judy: The title, The Attractiveness of Wisdom, comes from the Bible. In the Bible, Wisdom is a lady. In the story, Hamilton's change came from his interactions with women. Each of the women offered him a new way for him to see himself and caused him to change. The title represents the good or positive that comes from being wise and doing for yourself what you need. I also prayed each day before I began to write and asked for His help in crafting this story. You see, this is not just my story. WOW: That is so amazing! I loved reading that you are a teacher! How does teaching influence your writing? Judy: I wish I could say that I influenced my students. After all, I am the teacher. But the truth is, they have influenced me. I began writing because my 4th and 5th grade students in my class told me that my "stories sounded like the real stories in a real bookstore." They were in a program where they were to learn thinking skills. I wanted them to learn to read and think. They had not developed their reading skills and when I went to get them 4th and 5th grade reading books from the book room, I found they could not read. I made up stories for them. They enjoyed the stories and really got involved with the characters and they loved the setting. They read those pages so quickly, I had to write increasingly and write faster to keep ahead of them. By the end of the school year, they were reading on 4th and 5th grade level. This was the beginning of my writing career and almost every time I write, I think about those students who didn't want to learn to read but couldn't get enough of my stories. They asked me to publish the book. When my high school students found out I was writing and wanted to get published, they wanted to read something. I had them read a short story I was working on at the time. They gave me help with it. I took their advice, and the story was much better. After I began teaching at a college and completed That Ever Died So Young, one of my students asked me if I was the same person whose picture they saw on the back of a book in the college's bookstore. My college put my book in their bookstore. Almost all of the students bought the book. One student asked me if I was aware of the number of themes in that book. The students read the book and gave me a list of themes they found in That Ever Died So Young. They said they really enjoyed the story and I had to sign their books. WOW: I love how your students support you! What do you hope readers take away from reading your book? Judy: I would like my readers to see what I had to do for myself and realize they can do the same thing, if they need to. Many times, I see people who need to make a change in their lives, but they think they don't need to. We can be better people. I continue to improve myself and I want to have a relationship with my Father in Heaven. I want people to see the value of family. When parents divorce, they think that there is no longer a family. What about the children? They need to see that they still have a mother, father, siblings, in other words, a family. The family may look differently, but the parents who created their children out of love are still family, even though separated. Put the children first. We saw that in The Attractiveness of Wisdom. It's the job of the parents to keep the children mentally healthy, especially during a divorce. The kids are watching and are likely to repeat what they see and hear if the parents aren't careful. The most important value I want readers to take away is what someone said about the novel. "This novel is about love." Indeed, it is. Hamilton didn't have to do what he did in the dance studio with Franny. But he did. He did it out of love. He did many things in the novel out of love, and we certainly saw how that love impacted his children, especially his youngest son. WOW: Thank you so much for your time today! We hope everyone enjoys reading your book! ***** BOOK GIVEAWAY ***** Enter to win a copy of The Attractiveness of Wisdom by Judy Kelly! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends December 15th at 11:59 CT. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget the next day and follow up via email. Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway (C) Copyright wow-womenonwriting.com Visit WOW! Women On Writing for lively interviews and how-tos. Check out WOW!'s Classroom and learn something new. Enter the Quarterly Writing Contests. Open Now![url={url}]View the full article[/url]
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