Monday, September 11, 2017

Cover reveal!

I've been sitting on this for awhile, as I weighed the pros and cons of different publication routes, but the decision has been made! I'm planning to release Blood & Water in November.

I just got permission from Ani Difranco('s management) to use lyrics from her gorgeous song "Overlap" at the beginning of the novel. I still can't quite believe my luck.

Blood & Water is about family, in its various manifestations: the one you're born into, the one you choose and the one you create. I'll give more details in the next couple of months. Until then, Finding Charlie is on sale with Kindle Press for $1.99.

(Thanks to Debbie at thecovercollection.com for her work on this, as always.)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Using song lyrics in your fiction

I've always heard that getting permission to use a musician's lyrics in a book is impossible. Everybody says so. Barring a huge publisher with deep pockets and a bunch of lawyers or a close personal friendship with Bono, it's best to avoid it.

So I emailed Ani Difranco's management knowing it was a long shot. The lyrics from her song "Overlap" are essentially the thesis statement for my new novel, Blood & Water:
I know there is strength in the differences between us
And I know there’s comfort where we overlap.
After sending the email request, I began to emotionally prepare to delete the quote before publishing. Honestly, I didn't expect I'd ever hear back.

But I did. First for more specifics on the terms of the request and then to approve the request. I am beside myself with unexpected joy!

I will write more soon about the book, which I'm planning to release in November. Stay tuned for the cover reveal!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review: Gringo

I've read and reviewed Cass McMain's first two books. They're great. As a fellow writer, I admire her ability to create relatable characters living simple lives. What McMain is genius at is transforming the ordinary into the profound.

To say I was rooting for the characters in Gringo would be an understatement. The fury I felt when the bar manager insists on a uniform change was the kind of anger I generally reserve for actual things happening in my real life. That is how good the author is at building tension and making you invested.

Main character Daniel works nights and sleeps days and manages to have little time for much else. A temporary schedule change, along with the neighbor's barking dog, deprive him of sleep. His unlikely friendship with the elderly neighbor seems to provide the human connection he hadn't realized he was lacking. He's spent the last few years hiding out, licking his wounds after a break up. It turns out he and Ellie have something in common: they're both so stuck in the past that the passage of time has become difficult to gauge.

The ending is clever and will make you want to go back and reread the whole novel. Don't worry if you don't get it right away; just be assured it does all make sense. It's not a case of the author painting herself into a corner and throwing up her hands. I hesitate to explain too much because I think figuring it out is half the fun.

(We can discuss spoilers in the comments.)

I enjoyed every moment of this read and raced through it. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: Once Upon a Time, There Was You

Many years ago, I read a book by Elizabeth Berg that I didn't enjoy and I've been avoiding her books ever since. After reading Once Upon a Time, There Was You, I've realized that was a mistake and I'm excited to read her extensive list of other works.

In this book, Berg captures that particular angst of being an eighteen-year-old girl lucky enough to be overprotected and loved by her parents. It will be years before Sadie understands she was lucky. For now, she is just desperate to get her life started and have it belong to her.

The novel alternates third person narratives, allowing the reader to identify with each of the three main characters: Sadie and her parents, John and Irene. When Irene resolves to have a conversation with her daughter in which she finally just listens, the reader is both frustrated by her and heartbroken for her when she fails, launching nearly immediately into a lecture.

The age range of these characters makes it appealing for a broad audience. You don't have to be eighteen if you remember being eighteen; you don't have to be a parent if you've had one. The peripheral characters are also expertly drawn, giving other examples of how people figure out how to love and be loved.

At one point, family friend Henry becomes aggravated with how hard Sadie is on her parents:

"Oh listen, Sadie. You know who does it right? You know who does loving right?"

"Who?"

"Nobody."

And that's the main message of the book. We may not do it right, but most of us are trying.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: Shelter

I intended to read the first few pages at the Barnes and Noble cafe, but this sucked me in for the whole first chapter.

The crises that begins this family drama is followed by a series of blows it seems impossible for one person to withstand. This is a fast-paced page turner that explores the way we are damaged by the past and whether we can find the strength to change.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

KindleScout Anniversary Sale

Just over a year ago, my novel Finding Charlie was selected for publication by KindleScout.

This month KindleScout is celebrating its 2nd anniversary with a sale on over 200 titles currently supported by the imprint.

All KindleScout books, including Finding Charlie, will be available for 99 cents until April 3rd.

It isn't like Charlie to stay out all night without calling, but maybe Olivia doesn't know her little sister as well as she thought. 

When Charlie vanishes without warning, the people who love her are worried sick. Even if the law considers her an adult at nineteen, Charlie's still the baby of her already broken family. Older sister Olivia is determined to figure out what's happened. She finds a lost cell phone, an abandoned car and a shady boyfriend she's never met before. And he's not the only secret Charlie's been keeping.

This disappearance feels uncomfortably familiar, reminding Olivia and her father of another loss years before. But this will be different, Olivia swears. Charlie's coming back.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Top Five Reasons to Join a Critique Group

1. Find your tribe
Finding a group of people who spend their energy doing the same thing you do can make you feel less alone in what is otherwise a pretty solitary endeavor. When I'm forgetting to make my writing a priority, it's often my fellow writers who motivate me. And when I'm bummed out by an agent rejection or a bad review, they're great emotional support.

2. Trade wisdom
If you're rubbish at commas, make friends with the Punctuation Nazi. Offer something in return. Maybe you are really great at plot organization or dialogue or designing book covers or Kindle formatting. Maybe you have great contacts: reviewers, graphic artists, advertisers. When we share skills, it makes us all better.

3. Learn which advice to take
Everyone has an opinion. If you take on every suggested edit, it will no longer be your story and it may not even make sense when you're done. Think of the horse designed by committee. Wait for the advice that resonates, that hits on something you had a sneaking suspicion wasn't working. Pay extra attention to suggestions that are repeated by multiple group members.

4. Find your own mistakes by critiquing others
It can be hard to see your own work objectively. You're just too close to it. Sometimes it's easier to identify an issue in someone else's work and then apply it to your own.

5. Get a thicker skin
If you plan on submitting to agents or self-publishing where reader reviews determine sales, it's helpful to ease your way into listening to criticism. Your book will not be universally liked. Don't let it hurt your feelings. I like to read Amazon reviews of my favorite books to remind myself that anyone can get one-starred.

There are more than five reasons to join a critique group. What are your reasons?

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Long Thaw - FREE Book Offer

Somewhere between the successful release of my best-selling debut, Monsoon Season, and the lackluster release of my second novel, A Long Thaw, I began to feel like the publisher I was working with just wasn’t the right fit for me.

Getting out of the contract without an agent was a bit tricky, but I did it and I re-released A Long Thaw on my own. The process has been exciting, giving me complete control over how the book is promoted and getting immediate feedback regarding sales.

Since A Long Thaw was previously traditionally published, it's already been professionally edited and vetted by a standard gatekeeper, which hopefully will help give it that little extra bit of credibility in the sea of self-published books. All I had to do is find the cover, which I love.

I’ve always imagined A Long Thaw as a modern interpretation of the old prince and the pauper story. Abby and Juliet are cousins who, until the age of ten, live the same privileged, sheltered lives in a big Irish Catholic family. When Juliet’s parents divorce, her mother moves across the country so that she no longer has that safety net. The cousins reconnect in their twenties and the book deals with the ways we are changed by our experiences as well as the ways we are unchangable.

As a writer (and human being), I am endlessly fascinated by issues of identity and family dynamics, by the nature vs. nurture debate. These are things that inevitably find their way into my fiction.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Review: Fates and Furies

It is both shocking and reassuring when I read the reviews on Amazon for a book like this and see that there are actually people with the nerve to leave one star.

Yeah, the nerve.

This may not have been the best book I've ever read (though even those books have been one-starred), but Lauren Groff did not make the National Book Award finalists by accident. Who are these people who one-star a book because they were disappointed by the ending or they didn't fall in love with the main character, or they didn't get the point? They're certainly not writers. There are 201 one-star reviews. It's mind boggling.

The opening of this novel is so beautiful. That first page is what made me take the book home. Usually, I do extensive research before investing my time in a book. For this, I read the opening, closed the book, and set it in the "to buy" stack.

The book is divided into two main sections: the first is Lotto, the second is Mathilde. The reader gets to see their love story from the perspectives of each. The first section drags in places and Lotto comes off as arrogant but deeply loyal. You get the sense that this union has its share of dysfunction, but it's real. Mathilde's section sheds new light on events that seemed somewhat pointless in Lotto's. The second part is much darker and makes you wonder if these people ever really knew one another. The way events are retold from another angle is so well-done.

Criticism that it's pretentious because of its many high-brow literary allusions and it's focus on affluent white people is accurate if those things bother you. But that's what three-star reviews are for.