Least Useful Writing Advice

 This morning, in browsing the internet, I came across Stacey May Fowles’ latest book.

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I loved Fowles’ novel Infidelity and so I was naturally curious and eager to read about her new book, which, in turn, led me to Stacey May’s answer to

 

What is the least useful writing advice you ever received?

You see, CBC Books runs a series titled Magic 8:

We ask our favourite Canadian authors for the questions they always wish they were asked. We put those questions into a hat, randomly pull out 8, and send them to other Canadian authors.

So it was writer Patrick deWitt who asked Fowles the question. This was her answer:

“Write every day.” There’s no better way to hate or become frustrated with a thing than to force yourself to do it when you just can’t or really don’t want to. I do think sometimes you have to work through writing difficulties but it’s also so important and necessary to take breaks when your gut tells you to. Sometimes simply not writing is actually good for your writing.

Fowles’ latest book? It’s about baseball.

Fowles is an avid Toronto Blue Jays fan and is editor of Best Canadian Sports Writing, baseball for Jays Nation and The Athletic, and is author of the popular weekly Baseball Life Advice e-newsletter. She has also won tons of writing awards.

Sounds like a fun read. Just in time for the baseball season.

Back in the Groove

Two things have been happening since my last blog post eons ago.

Number 1

I moved.

Moving is much like doing a major spring cleaning of every room in your house. Every nook and cranny and every spec of dust. In a way, it was very liberating and made me practice minimalism. It struck me as incredible and depressing to see how much stuff I’d accumulated throughout the years.

I moved into a smaller apartment and so I needed to downsize and trim my possessions. I still haven’t been able to let go of a small beige colored handbag which I haven’t used in years but it used to belong to my mother. What am I holding unto?

And then there was the move itself during Montreal’s heaviest snowstorm of the season!

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Oops! Sorry, wrong photo!

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My poor dog, Bau, didn’t at all like the move.

Wake me when it’s over!

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Number 2

The second reason why I haven’t been posting on my blog is that I had nothing to say.

Then, I received an e-mail from Thelma Mariano, the editor of my women’s fiction novels:

New Picture (9)  balawydermissisdatingadventures  cafe paradise a  Not by Design

Thelma was recently interviewed by Duke Diercks where, along with 12 other editors, was asked this question:

What is the #1 mistake that you see first-time authors make?

 Here’s part of her answer:

 Most first-time novelists underestimate the amount of work required to bring their completed draft to a publishable level. This leads to what I believe is the #1 problem with early manuscripts: a lack of story tension.

If we lack a “story-worthy” problem, something strong enough to pull a reader through hundreds of pages, needing to know what happens next, no amount of editing will make it better.

Click here to read more on Thelma’s answer

and here on the editing process

More Indie Books I’ve Read

 

Here are two more books by fellow bloggers that you might enjoy reading.

 

Get  your copy of P.S. I Forgive You today!

 

Like all of D.G. Kaye’s books, I was eager to read her latest – a follow up to Conflicted Heart.  P.S. I Forgive You – A Broken Legacy  is Kaye’s most heart wrenching and intense book to date. Not surprising, considering the subject of this memoir.  It is D.G. Kaye’s and her siblings’ attempt of freeing themselves from the clutches of emotional neglect.

P.S. I Forgive You – A Broken Legacy is a testimony to the painful effects of her mother’s gambling addiction on her and her siblings. Anyone who has lived with an addict knows how destructive it can be, how much it creates guilt, resentment and a feeling of low self esteem.

P.S. I Forgive You  is heartbreaking to read but D.G. Kaye’s strength and ability to offer an honest examination of her experience is an inspiration to anyone who has found themselves with the difficult decision of turning away from a toxic relationship. Most importantly, in Kaye’s difficult journey to self love and acceptance she offers hope in her struggle to love a mother who was not able to provide the same for her children.

A tender, well written book.

Visit D.G.Kaye’s blog here: http://dgkayewriter.com/

 

 

Glass Slippers and Stilettos is a collection of ten short stories as seen through the eyes of Linden’s protagonist, Regina. In the story titled Driving Regina, whereby Regina is involved in an accident, Ana Linden writes: Little does he (the driver of the car Regina has run into) know that Regina has such emergencies once a week. This pretty well sums up Regina, along with this other line:  Men lovers are  her recreational drug.

Linden’s characters don’t have names. Instead she refers to them as Boyfriend, Lover, The Assistant, Kid, Mr. Impeccable Pedigree, and Inconsiderate. Using this technique is clever as it allows the reader to identify easily with the characters. Haven’t we all met such people in our own lives?

In some ways, Regina is a contemporary femme fatale (minus the crime) for she possesses traits often found in this archetype of literature: gold digger, selfish, heartless, manipulative, opportunist, sense of entitlement both with her friends, lovers and at work and an accomplished liar.

Although it is difficult to like Regina it is also difficult to put her down.

You can read excerpts from Glass Slippers and Stilettos here.

 

 

 

SOME INDIE BOOKS I READ

One of my goals during my time away from blogging was to catch up on my Kindle’s TBR list. Although I still haven’t gotten through the list here are a few books I did read that I’d like to share with you.

 

Islamic terrorists have managed to shut down an American submarine’s computer system while Kalian Delamagente (a PHd student at Columbia University) and the protagonist of this well researched novel, has invented a robot which is able to detect subs thus leading  multiple attempts by the terrorists to get their hands on Delamagente’s research.

This political thriller plays on both robotics and paleontology – an interesting and unique mixture. Aside from the plot, I was impressed by the number of characters in the novel and how the author was able to characterize all of them. I was also impressed by the descriptions offered in the book: She absorbed the cacophony of African life – the trill of insects, the distant hoots and hollers, and the rustle of wind. It was hard to accept that this overpowering beauty hid such danger.

Although the terrorists’ attempts to steal America’s most potent nuclear weapon is at the heart of this novel there are cultural gems interwoven throughout. For example, through one of the characters,  Laslo Hamar from Iran – we learn about the Islamic toiletry etiquette before prayer.

It has been a long time since I read a novel of such complexity (submarines, computer hacking, kidnapping). Although I did not find it an easy read – perhaps because of the author’s skilled technical knowledge incorporated in the novel – it was a stimulating and informative read.

Follow Jacqui at: https://worddreams.wordpress.com/

 

 

If you’ve ever wondered why relationships are so difficult, Ana Linden’s book Parallel Lives offers ample reasons for this diversity and complexity between a man and a woman.

Amalia, the main character in the book, provides contemplative insights into finding someone she can like, accept and respect for who he is, from the very beginning. The book reads like a psychological treatise on such subjects as cheating, the death of feelings, suffocation familiarity, compromises, high school love, jealousy and intense sensations.

As a character, Amalia is strong and in control of her life.  She has a take me or leave me attitude and offers no apologies for her feelings or lack of them towards the men she becomes involved in, challenging some of them about their own infidelities and double lives – thus the title Parallel Lives.

Every woman who has ever questioned why she doesn’t have any physical desire for a kind man who worships her, will find she is not alone here:  you just can’t fake chemistry.

What I liked and admired the most about Amalia was that she remains true to herself and her value system. In her affair with the married man, Robert, I couldn’t help but think of Fifty Shades of Grey with a feminist twist and without the dominant/submissive contract. Submission is not at all part of Amalia’s make-up. She is much too strong willed and independent. Parallel lives is a refreshing, insightful and encouraging look at what happens when women take charge with confidence of their own desires.

The book also offers some tender and sensual moments and a clear look at how differently men and women view relationships, especially sexual ones.

Follow Ann at: https://analindenblog.wordpress.com/

 

ConneXions: A dating site where lonely women have become prey

Mariano’s novel illustrates that the world of online dating can be a dangerous trap for women seeking sexual excitement and escape from a loveless life. It becomes especially risky when the man they meet is Kyle whose modus operandi consists of smooth talking, seductiveness and a “getting to know” each other attitude.

Mariano keeps up interest by first focusing on Kyle who preys after married women. Interest is later upheld as the author introduces a second serial killer and the reader understand that Kyle is a copy cat killer. My suspense was maintained as I wondered who among the men that these married women were dating could be the original killer.

Although the author places much attention on the copy cat killer, his violent past and his life style, it is her concentration on the victims – along with failed marriages, disappointing careers, lonely lives – that add to the novel. These women could be your next door neighbor or even yourself. They are believable in their pursuit of meaningfulness in their lives and their vulnerability makes them easy prey for a charming, handsome man like Kyle.

As a sub-plot, Dana, a PH student in Psychology, is doing her thesis on the relationship between low self-esteem and married women’s affairs. She goes online in search of married women seeking intimate relationships. When Elaine, one of the women in her study is found strangled and another has disappeared she decides to take matters in her hands. The suspense is then upped as Dana goes online in search of the serial killer.

The characters in this novel were well developed and the story line flowed smoothly. Mariano is best known as a romance writer and her skills in this genre are reflected in this easy to read novel.

Follow Thelma at : http://www.thelmamariano.com/books/

 

 A series of misunderstandings is at the heart of this romantic suspense novel.  What is interesting in this novel is not so much finding out whodunit but rather how the protagonist will get out of the mess she finds herself in.

Sandra Eastman has finally got her life on track after the tragic deaths of bother parents. But then she finds herself being accused of planting a bomb in her boss’s office. Motivation for her doing so is not lacking and to add to the intrigue Lieutenant Harris is on the case – the same officer who remembers her as a teenager when he was the duty officer assigned to tell her that her father had died. There are many twists and turns to the plot, some having to do directly with Sandra and others like murder and fraud add parallel suspense and interest to the story.

And then there’s the romance. The ending is so very romantic.

The novel is written by two authors and I would be very curious to know how they worked together to create such a seamless novel in terms of characterization, tone, voice and style. As a bonus the novel is set in San Francisco.

Follow Pamela at: https://roughwighting.net/

 

If you’re looking for a good whodunit book consider reading Margot Kinberg’s B-Very Flat. The setting takes place on a university campus where Serena Brinkman, an up-and- coming violinist is found dead. The motives for her murder are many: money, career advancement, obsession, jealousy and Kinberg makes sure through her swift pacing to keep us on our toes.

The characters are well-drawn and the dialogue moves the plot forward. Although the novel is light and entertaining it does not lack in describing the foibles of human nature and the lengths people will go to maintain their status quo. As a sub-plot is a beautiful love relationship between Serena and her partner. If you like mystery puzzles you’ll love this book.

Follow Margot at: https://margotkinberg.wordpress.com/

The Golden Age of Charli

Charli and her husband Stewart (Pud) are on a mission to get healthy again and bring zest back into their 30 year marriage by bonding with their younger relatives and growing more mindful about their food uptake in spite of their love of wine and gourmet food.

This is an entertaining novel about retirement, being a golf widower and trying to shed the pounds. It is also a warming novel about a close knit family going through the transitional stage that comes with retirement.

What I most enjoyed about the book was Charli’s optimistic outlook on life. Although much of the book is about the health issues associated with being overweight, the author shows us, through Charli, that being healthy also consists of having a right attitude.

Follow Jena at: http://www.jenabooks.com/

The two  short crime stories in this book read like hard boiled fiction. Like any good short story both stories in Murder with a Twist are tightly written and we jump into the action right away.

Both stories were written from a woman’s point of view and whether in the first person view point (Salt Free) or the third person point of view (The Green Light) John Greco accurately portrayed the mindset of, in one case, a woman cheated by her husband and in the other a women using sex to get what she wants. I found the twists at the end of both stories to be surprising and satisfying. I’m hoping that these two stories are the beginning of a larger collection of stories by this author.

Follow John at: https://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/

Product Details

This story took me down memory lane to my own childhood filled with penny candy, candied apples, two cent empty Orange Crush bottles. Will (5) and Shawn (9) are brothers out to enjoy a great day together.

The author gives us a play by play of this day along with background on the young boys’ home situation of a dad’s drinking and parents fighting over money. It is a sweet story that made me feel good inside.

Follow Bette at: https://4writersandreaders.com/tag/wordpress/

 Versions of the SelfChristy Birmingham’s latest collection of poems takes off where her book Pathways to Illumination left off. In Versions of Self Christy Birmingham offers hope, inspiration and celebrates the strength of healing.In her own words her objective in writing this collection is “…(to) long for words I can to heal someone else.” This is what good poetry does and Birmingham succeeds on many levels.

I have always found reading poetry a catalyst for my own writing, particularly in its ability to fill my mind with inimitable images. Here’s an example:

Take off the uniform that smothers

Your hopes for a stable embrace, and

Listen for the words you are sure to hear,

When you dance one day, when

You tilt your lips into a smile.If you’ve followed Christy Birmingham’s blog, you know that she is a feminist and her poem Equality and Vision is a tribute to Women’s Equality Day, August 26.

Honor and represent the women who

Have brought us to the path we travel today.

Like a good wine, this collection is to be savored; unlike a good wine, her metaphorical bottle is always full ready for you to return to, each time enlightening you in a different way.

Do not add despair to your breath today sums up the optimism in this collection.

Follow Christy at: https://poeticparfait.com/ and https://whenwomeninspire.com/

 

 

Helping Author’s Gain Exposure

Today I’m at Don Massenzio’s blog. Don is not only one of the most prolific bloggers I know but he posts about a variety of interesting subjects. One of his series is helping authors gain exposure and strengthen the blogging community. Don is always looking for authors to feature on his blog so if you’re interested just click here.

Don Massenzio author photo

In the meantime, here’s my interview with Don. 

THANKS, DON! 

Comments are closed here but open on Don’s blog.

How I Got Published: Phil Fragasso

Last May, in honor of Chick-lit month I wrote a post titled Chick Lit: Can Men Write it? That post linked to an article that raved about the enormous success of such male romance writers as David Nicholls and Nicholas Sparks and also included three other male writers in this genre.Today, I’m happy to add Phil Fragasso to that list and feature him on the series How I Got Published.

 

Phil Fragasso sold his first article at the age of sixteen and has written continuously since then. After a career as a marketing executive, he left the corporate world a few years ago to focus on activities that were more fulfilling on a personal level and more contributory to the world around him. Today he focuses on writing and teaching. He’s often said “I live the American dream” and that is indeed how he feels. With a wonderful wife, two grown children, great friends and a couple of rambunctious Labrador retrievers, he stays very active and involved.

HOW I GOT PUBLISHED

 I’ve often said that my tragic flaw is having too many interests. I’ve written in a wide variety of genres and my most recent books have been nonfiction. My first published book, however, was a YA novel and I love the characters I created to this day. During the years when my kids were young and my career was taking off, I put fiction-writing aside and focused on books and articles related to business. I decided to return to my original love — in the form of commercial fiction — and committed myself to fiction.

Continue reading

Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

As writers and artists we are often asked where our ideas come from. The answer is complex and usually never just from one place. Take for example, Felicity in my latest Getting to Mr. Right series. What made me choose to have her interested in fashion rather than music, sports or photography – all interests of mine?

The answer lies in part, I think, with my mother and her love of fashion. Whenever she watched television she commented on what the women were wearing, just as after an outing she would give a critical expose on how the women were dressed. In the last years of her life I would visit her and we would watch together What Not To Wear, a show I haven’t watched since her death seven years ago.

One of her favorite movie actresses was Audrey Hepburn, especially the role she played as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I suspect what my mother loved about the movie was not the gangster/call girl plot of the film. Nor Holly’s capacity, in her femme fatale manner, to seduce the men in her life in order to get what she wants. Nor was it the script’s chick-lit style of presenting Holly as an independent woman, unafraid of thwarting feminine customs. What made my mother love Breakfast at Tiffany’s was most likely Ms. Hepburn’s wardrobe.

My mother’s own style was more of the sensible cardigan and slacks (who uses that word these days?) as she puttered around the house. But on those rare occasions when she dressed up she was meticulous about what she wore adding a string of pearls around a plain dress  which, in the imagination of my memory, she might as well have been wearing the sheath black dress or double breasted orange wool coat which Ms. Hepburn wore in the movie.

In Truman Capote’s novella, Holly Golightly (don’t you just love this name?) … was always well groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes, the blues and grays and lack of luster that made her, herself, shine so. One might have thought her a photographer’s model, perhaps a young actress.”

Along with my mother’s influence and my love for the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s  I was likely subliminally drawn to creating a character who is involved in the world of fashion.

In this scene Felicity, is with Eduardo, a gallery owner:

This is the second time in less than twenty-four hours that I have been asked if I love Marco. “Absolutely? Can we ever be absolute about our feelings?” I say aware that I’m avoiding answering his question.

“Enough about your love life,” he says almost impatiently. “Tell me about your art project. How you combine it with fashion.”

As he sits beside me, I tell Eduardo about the project with Tina and show him pictures from my cell. “They’re painted graffiti jeans. It’s  a lot of fun to do.”

“These are incredible,” he says. “Do they make these jeans in my size?”

Eduardo is a hefty man and I really can’t see him in a pair of these jeans, even though many of them are made wide and loose. Still, I say, “I’ll make sure to get you a pair. Which design do you prefer?”

He chooses a dark indigo jean with designs inspired by Miro on the legs and back pocket. I feel myself beaming. It’s wonderful getting recognized for my work.

 

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Photo courtesy of The Laurent Brisson collection 

 

I’d love to hear about where you get some of your ideas.