Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book Review: The Lights Went Out and Other Stories

This short story collection is beautifully written. As a novel writer, I was so impressed at how Hogan was able to get me invested in her characters in such a short space. Also impressive was what a chameleon she is in terms of style and voice. She writes men, women, teenage boys, vampires, dogs. She can write convincingly in different tense, genre, and POV. 

My favorites were Blood Orange and Twenty Years, which are both about the ferocity of new love compared with the fragility of long-term love. 

I am left thinking of many of these characters. Recommended!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Guest Post - Anna Belle Rose

The Long Road to Publication 

Years and years ago, actually decades ago, I was a stay-at-home mom for a bit, with my then youngest child who would not fall asleep at nap time. Over time, I realized that while he wouldn’t sleep, he would sit in his crib for a bit each afternoon, listening to Yanni at the Acropolis, looking at story books, and I could sit and write. And write I did. I wrote and wrote and wrote over many months. By then, my youngest was talking, and he somehow understood that Mommy was writing a book, and he kept nagging me to keep going. And I did.

Fast forward many years, and I’d keep opening the word file of that first novel, print it out, edit and revise, and eventually send it out to a few agents. Rejections would come in, and I’d put it away for a while, then that same son would poke at me again, and the process would start all over again. During this same time, I also started several other novels, and kept working on them in the same way. All of them were contemporary romances, heavily linked to life in Vermont, and all have gloriously happy endings – I mean, who doesn’t love a happily ever after?

Finally, late in 2016, I decided I needed to either get serious about writing, or give it up for good. So I pulled those two complete novels out again, and hired incredible professional editors to go at them. Then I started submitting them to a few agents, and a couple publishing houses that didn’t require representation by agents. And on June 13th, a publishing contract arrived on the novel I wrote first, The Phone Call. And on July 13th, a contract arrived for my second, That One Small Omission. And joy of joys, on December 4th, a contract was offered on my third, More Than I Can Say.

On October 11, 2017, That One Small Omission was published in e-book and print versions, and on December 12th, The Phone Call was published. The joy and excitement I feel each time I look at my mantle and see my first published novel is an emotion that I think only other authors can understand!

To find out more about Anna, visit her author page!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Ani Difranco might read my book!

The most exciting part about getting the rights to Ani Difranco's song lyrics in my novel, Blood & Water is the prospect that she might actually read it.

I've been a fan of Ani's since I was seventeen and I have all her albums. Her lyrics have been the soundtrack to my life and the lines I've quoted at the beginning of my novel are the premise for the story that follows:
I know that there's strength in the differences between us 
And I know there's comfort where we overlap.
When her management requested a complimentary copy, I began to have fantasies that she would read the book, love it, and we'd become great friends. I couldn't just send it in a generic envelope so I decided to have a little fun!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Female Positive Children's Books

I believe Christmas gifts are for children. In my life, there are five qualifying persons. Shopping for the offspring of my two best friends in the world is the most fun I have during the holiday season.

This year, I've decided to do books. I think kids should be exposed to more stories written by women with girls in the lead. I don't feel like there were enough of those when I was growing up. Here are some ideas:

  1. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is 100 bedtime stories about extraordinary women and illustrated by female artists from around the world.
  2. Judy Blume. Any of them, all of them, but especially Are You There God? It's Me Margaret
  3. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery.
  4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
  5. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
  6. I preformed a scene from Autumn Street by Lois Lowry for my seventh grade oral interpretation.
  7. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is about the deep friendship between a boy and a girl. It deals with grief. I read this as a kid and was excited to learn she has a new award-winning book out called My Brigadista Year.
  8. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.
  9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madaleine L'Engle is getting a reboot as a more diverse version for Disney.
  10. For younger readers, I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont.
I'm selecting from this list and buying them from my local indie bookstore, Antigone Books. It ends up being slightly more expensive, but gift wrap is free!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Holiday shopping with a conscience

I do my best to avoid sweat shops. I don't buy clothing very often and when I do, I either spend more money for something made in America or I hit a thrift shop. My favorite new find is ThredUp.com. I recently spent around $50 for ten brand name items in good condition - including a pair of American made jeans.

Holiday shopping can be incredibly difficult. I've stumbled across a few gift guides, but their suggestions are often very specific and pricey. ABC News says that if  each of us spent just $64 on American made goods during our holiday shopping, the result would be 200,000 new jobs. I think that's a challenge worth taking and this is my fifth year of doing my part.

I've always had good luck with the American made section of FatBrainToys, which has reasonably priced, educational toys and games.

When I'm looking for US made kids clothes, I usually go straight to etsy.com.

For several years now, my family has decided to donate to charity in lieu of gifts to each other. We have given to UnicefHeiferCharityWater, and OxFam to name a few. Helping someone on the other side of the world to become self-reliant feels better to me than receiving a bunch of things I really don't need. (And it saves on standing in the exchange line on December 26th.) It's much more consistent with the Christmas spirit.

Before selecting a charity, I always check them out at Charitynavigator.org to find out how much of donations go to services and how much they pay the CEO. (I can't stand charity CEOs who make millions.) I recommend checking out your charity here before donating. You can even look at their list of top-rated charities if you need ideas.

I'm always looking for new shopping sources. Please share your favorites in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Print copies

I always get so excited when the box of paperbacks arrive! Blood & Water is my fourth novel, but this time was no different.

Over the years, I've become a reluctant Kindle user. There are definitely times when they're convenient for travel and having a diverse collection of reading material at your fingertips. But, if you're like me and appreciate the feeling of a good, old fashioned book in your hands, you'll be happy to know the print copies are now available.

Here it is with my last book, Finding Charlie. (Kindle Scout is running a 99 cent sale for that one all month.) Don't they look good together? Shout out to Deb, my amazing cover designer at thecovercollection.com.

How many of you are ignoring the ebook "trend" in favor of paperbacks?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Opening

Delilah: Tuesday, October 17th 2017

It isn’t yet dawn as I ransack my apartment for things I can’t leave behind.  The list is surprisingly short.
       Handfuls of clothing stuffed into a duffel bag. My laptop. An awkwardly-sized cardboard box full of nostalgia, the only things I’d allowed myself to take from my parents’ house after my mother died. I wrap both arms around it, hefting it onto my hip as I cast my eyes in nervous darting circles, contemplating what doesn’t make the cut. The futon. The microwave. Sheets and towels and curtains. I leave it all.
       Everything fits quite easily in my Mini Cooper, the box and the duffel bag smooshed together on the backseat like sleepy children apprehensive of the spontaneous road trip. I go back to lock up, remembering to take a pale blue scarf from the hook just inside the door. I drape it over my fleece, which I zip up to my chin on the way back to the car. I slide into the front seat and turn the key. It starts right up – nothing like nightmares and old movies, where people can never leave in a hurry when they need to. Everything goes smoothly. Leaving is easy. As I pull out of the lot, and my apartment building gets smaller in the rearview, my breathing slows. I’m certain I won’t miss any of it. I wonder why I never thought of this before. 
       I feel no attachment to material things. I take some degree of pride in that. Near the end of her life, my mother asked me to take her antique furniture. She had an oak dresser and nightstand that were a set and she didn’t want them separated. She was dying and she was worried about keeping the furniture together.
       After the funeral, there’d been an estate sale. I don’t believe in an afterlife so I don’t believe my mother is upset with me or proud of me or looking out for me.
       Dead is dead.
       The cardboard box contains twelve file folders that hold report cards and artwork and essays from every year I went to school. If I looked closely, I’m sure I’d find my SAT scores. I haven’t looked closely, though. I saved a shoebox full of loose photos, but I haven’t looked closely at those either. When I first lifted the lid in the basement, my throat started closing. I replaced the lid and set it aside. For later. Whenever that is.
       My mother died five years ago, six months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She’d never smoked. My father had smoked, though he quit before I was born. He’d died before her diagnosis. A heart attack we hadn’t seen coming. She’d just begun to shake off the most crippling parts of her widowhood when she got the news that she wouldn’t need to get used to living without him after all.
       My father’s death was sudden and shocking and devoid of the opportunity to say goodbye. It was terrifyingly fast: the fear in his eyes, his twisted face, the ambulance sirens too late. My mother’s death was miserably slow, an endless terror with a million goodbyes until there was nothing left to say and nothing left to do but wait for the guilty relief when it was over.
       Tucked into a corner of that box, wrapped in a checkered kitchen towel, are their wedding rings and her quarter carat diamond in yellow gold, the only jewelry my mother owned.
       As I wait at the intersection on the way to the highway, remembering my favorite frying pan with grooves in it that made burgers look like they’d been grilled, I see a police cruiser in my rearview mirror. It turns into the parking lot of my apartment complex and I take a right on red.

Blood  & Water is available on all platforms.