Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Inadequacy and Perserverance



“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing: isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

Robert DeNiro said these words in 2014 on stage at the Oscars. He was introducing the award for best screen writing. But he could've been talking about me. 

Like most authors, I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting alone in front of my computer, drinking way too much coffee and obsessing over my imaginary friends. When my characters aren’t behaving or doing what I want them to, I procrastinate with social media as my more-than-willing partner in crime. So yes, all of what DeNiro said feels insightful on a scary soul-searching level. 

Like, oh my god, he’s REALLY talking about ME.

On the other hand, the feelings of “soul-crushing inadequacy” are the very things that make writers so introspective, analyzing the minutiae of everyday life and emotion to find what’s real and put it on paper. We search for Truth and make readers stare it in the face.

My own soul-crushing insecurities made me put off my writing dreams for twenty years. 

Like so many authors, I caught the writing bug early. In second grade I knew I wanted to write books and be the one standing at the front of the line in bookstores, smiling as I signed my name. My favorite book for years was The Girl Who Owned a City, by O.T. Nelson. Dystopian YA before they named it as a category. I wanted to write a book like that.

When I graduated college with my BA in English literature, I told my dad I wanted to write for children and teens, to inspire the same love of words and reading that had supported and comforted me through my life. He laughed and told me to find a real job.

My first "real" post-college job, entry level at a Boston advertising agency, came with computer access. I started my first real post-college novel on a floppy disc on my lunch hours. It was Bright Lights, Big City meets Brave New World. New Adult before it was even a category. I had over 80,000 soul-searching words written before a large metal stapler literally crushed my dreams by landing on the disc hidden in my desk drawer.

A computer-savvy friend retrieved some of the words – broken phrases and paragraphs from the corrupted data. Mostly little squares in rows where the words should’ve been. Soul-crushing.

I was still writing - press releases for different public relations jobs, articles for local magazines about my roommate’s comedy troupe, short stories for children’s magazines, finally landing a reporting position at the local newspaper… but every time I sat down to write my novel, I froze. The words wouldn’t come, stuck in the neverworld of computer Purgatory. Writing fiction sank to the bottom of the to-do list.

Fast forward 18 years… that same computer-savvy friend dragged me to his writing class. The other adults in the class pooh-poohed writing for teens and urged me to tackle more adult subject matter.

I did. And I got published. But. My heart remained mired in Young Adult fiction.

I finally indulged in my secret desire to write for tweens and early teens, but chose to write about mermaids before they became popular. Everyone wanted vampires. Then angels and demons. Rejection after rejection filled my inbox. “No one wants mermaids,” wrote one agent.

The third book in my mermaid series released at the end of 2017, and I've been busy promoting it this summer, with at least one event every week. I've met actual fans in person, teens who've read the first book and are eager for more and eager to talk about the characters. And it feels really, really good.

I always wanted to write YA, but kept putting it off. Listening to other people. Letting other people tell me what would be a better use of my time. I didn’t have the courage or confidence to pursue my dream until it was almost too late. 

But it’s never too late.

And it’s never too early. If you have a dream, go for it. Don’t let other people tell you what you want to do. Write what you love. Follow your dreams. Suck up those soul-crushing feelings of inadequacy and just go for it.

And keep the stapler on the other side of the room.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Book Review: The Replacement Crush, by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush, by Lisa Brown Roberts
Published in 2016 by Entangled Teen

About the Book:
True love can't be strategized.
After book blogger Vivian Galdi’s longtime crush pretends their secret summer kissing sessions never happened, Vivian creates a list of safe crushes, determined to protect her heart.
But nerd-hot Dallas, the sweet new guy in town, sends the mission and Vivian’s zing meter into chaos. While designing software for the bookstore where Vivian works, Dallas wages a counter-mission.
Operation Replacement Crush is in full effect. And Dallas is determined to take her heart off the shelf.
 My Take:

I feel like I usually read YA with some sort of twist - paranormal, time travel, dystopian, alternate universe, superpowers... not straight up contemporary YA crush stuff, regular girl and boy kinda romance.

And yet, this book hit all my buttons and was pretty much a perfect read for a rainy Sunday morning. Go figure.

Lisa Brown Roberts perfectly captures how it feels to be sixteen and desperately in love, not in control of your own body or emotions.The main character Vivian hates that out-of-control roller coaster feeling and decides to go all Vulcan about her emotions - as in, denying their existence. Which may not sound like the basis for a teen romance, but trust me, it makes sense when you read it. Her characters seemed to be just the right mixture of self-aware and self-absorbed to be believeable, and the Southern California setting was such fun to read.

Yes, this may seem like a light review, but it was a light, fun read for your summer reading list, and a feel-good book for a gloomy day.

It also brought up a question for me about review blogs - because the main character Vivian has an anonymous book review blog where she can rant and/or rave about novels without fear of anyone coming back at her to criticize her opinions. How do you feel about reviewers who hide behind a blog title, not revealing who they are or participating as themselves in the discourse? Is that better or worse? I know sometimes I wish I'd decided to be anonymous with my reviews, but on the other hand, writing under my name keeps me on the high ground, becaues I have to be accountable for everything I write and/or recommend.

Which circles back to my review of this particular novel - if you enjoy contemporary YA romance, this is a funny, quirky, slightly nerdy take on high school crushes that's easy to read and leaves you smiling over and over again. Ignore the uninspired cover art. It's better than it looks.

Grab a copy on AMAZON.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday Book Review: Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller


Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
Published 2012 by Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins

About the Book:
Mary Renault lives again!” declares Emma Donoghue, author of Room, referring to The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller’s thrilling, profoundly moving, and utterly unique retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War.
A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner, Miller’s monumental debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction’s brightest lights—and fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.

MY TAKE:

Song of Achilles is a powerful, moving love story. A retelling of the classic Greek myth of Achilles and the Trojan War, but told from the point of view of Patrocles. In this telling, Patrocles is not Achilles' cousin but his chosen companion as a boy, and then his lover as they grow older.

Their story is touched on briefly in the middle books of the Iliad, but Greek philosophers expended much time and countless letters debating their relationship. The author seems to have done extensive research before weaving this wonderfully rich tale filled with passion, emotion, and adventure.

The relationship is complicated in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that Achilles mother is an immortal who has great plans for her only child, plans that don't include happiness for her demigod son.  She wants Achilles to take his place with the gods, and sees Patrocles as an obstacle to his fame, because while boys might play at love with each other, grown men may not. But no one is playing, the emotions are deep and real, bleeding off the page is the most engaging way.

The writing is both modern and lyrical, making mythology seem both ordinary and fantastic at the same time. The author's style makes the story accessible to the modern reader, but if your only exposure to the Achilles/Patrocles relationship is the Brad Pitt version from 2004, you will need to readjust your expectations.

This is not a fluffy, fast book, but I totally recommend throwing this into your beach bag for a totally engrossing beach read. You won't be sorry.

Grab a copy on AMAZON 

*Note that the Kindle version is $8.99, and the paperback is less than $14 - you may want to order the actual book, and pass it on to a friend when you're finished. Share the love! And actually, that's how I received my copy, from my father's wife. Because my son wouldn't lend me his copy. Strangely enough, both of them totally loved the book. Its appeal may not be universal, but it certainly crosses genders, ages, and political affiliations... just sayin'...





Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday Book Review: Nora and Kettle, by Lauren Nicolle Taylor


Nora and Kettle, by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
( Paper Stars Novel, Book One)
Published 2016 by Clean Teen Publishing

About the Book:
2017 IPPY Book Awards Winner!

A “remarkable” (Booklist Magazine) reimagining of Peter Pan.

After World War II, orphaned Kettle faces prejudice as a Japanese American but manages to scrape by and care for his makeshift family of homeless children. When he crosses paths with the privileged but traumatized Nora, both of their lives are forever changed...

Lauren Nicolle Taylor’s Nora & Kettle is a heart-wrenching historical fiction novel that will appeal to fans of books by John Green and Ned Vizzini, novels such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Beginning of Everything, Eleanor & Park, The Book Thief, and classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.
MY TAKE:

Thoroughly engaging and heart wrenching in both subject and the sheer beauty of the imagery the author creates out of utter darkness, Nora and Kettle is a different kind of story but one that's totally appropriate for the times we live in. Although the characters are young enough to be YA, I hesitate to classify this book in that category, and might call it literary fiction instead, the way The Book Thief was more literary fiction than YA. There is a kinship and echoes to classic Peter Pan stories but don't be fooled. This is in no way a Disney tale.

Set in post WWII America, the author tells the story from two disparate points of view, with two unreliable first person narrators. It's essentially two stories taking place in a side by side manner until the stories converge. Each narrator reveals their true story crumb by crumb until the full picture emerges of how desperate both of their situations have become.

If you want the experience of having it unfold at its own pace, surprises and harsh reality and all, then stop reading my review and just go buy the book.  If you want to know a little more about what you're getting into, keep reading.

Nora is a wealthy teen living in a post-war 1940s American city. They never say whether its New York, Philadelphia, Chicago... But it's a city of that size and feel.  Her father is an important lawyer, but a cruel man. He may fight for civil rights all day, but he beats his wife and daughters behind closed doors. His current case is fighting for the rights of the Japanese Americans who were imprisoned in camps for the duration of the war.

Kettle is one of those Japanese American "Lost Boys" whose parents died in the camp, and have been taken cross country for resettlement. He and a friend escaped from the system and now live in abandoned subway tunnels, working on the docks doing dangerous jobs alongside racist roughnecks. Along the way they've collected an assortment of other runaway children whom they care, an unlikely family of kids no one wants living off the radar.

The implications and comparisons to today's immigrant crisis with families being torn apart seems so timely. Especially when Rachel Maddow draws parallels between the Japanese internment camps and today's border arrests. Showing the struggles and the humanity of the Lost Boys will make you ache for the current generation of kids going through similar trials. But there's also the contrast between the poor but free orphans, to the rich but trapped Nora who lives in luxury but is beaten on a daily basis by her parent.

Lyrical and heartbreaking, this is a great read and I totally recommend it.

Grab a copy today on AMAZON
(as of my writing this the Kindle version was free)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

99 Cent SALE! MY KIND OF CRAZY ebook for 99 Cents!





About the Book:

Kendall Roarke is betting everything on making her Harwichport Bed & Breakfast into the premier wedding destination on Cape Cod, despite her recent messy divorce.

Jonathan Reynolds moved back to the Cape to take over his uncle's business and start fresh after his own marriage ended. He's not looking for anything complicated - until he meets Kendall, with her big plans and wild mop of curls.

Throw an unruly foster puppy and an uptight new neighbor into the mix and things get a little crazy. Now Kendall has to decide if it's the kind of crazy that she can live with... for the rest of her life.

Excerpt:

He reached out and gently wrapped his fingers around her arm, not letting her leave the front hall. “Kendall?” 

Again with the major electrical sparks zinging through her! She was afraid to look him in the eye, afraid he’d be able to see it in her face, the devastating effect he had on her. They stood so close she felt the heat from his body radiating, warming the small space between them. His touch was fire on her bare skin. She finally raised her gaze to meet his eyes, luminous and deep. She felt like she might fall into those green pools and drown.

Breathe in, breathe out. She searched for words to answer the unasked questions in his eyes but none came to her.

“Kendall.” He whispered her name again as if it were the answer to some puzzle he was trying to solve.

Thoughts whirled through her head at lightning speed. Nothing about this made any kind of sense— especially not her attraction to a complete stranger. But there was no denying the electricity that ran through her body from his simplest touch.

“I’m not looking for a relationship right now.” Her low whisper matched his.

“What are you looking for?” He moved closer, his lips brushing her mouth, tasting of beer and salted peanuts. His warmth pulsed through her in shock waves, her traitorous body responding all too eagerly. He tasted so good, the salt sizzling on her tongue. The kiss shifted from soft and gentle to solid and deep. Arms slid around her, pulling her close, but she was too wrapped up in the kiss to protest. Why complain? He felt so good, the hard muscles of his arms and planed chest underneath that thin dress shirt, and another hardness evident, despite his proper dress pants.

Suddenly Kendall remembered that this was the same man who was fooling around with the married cougar of a librarian. She wanted to be outraged for the unwitting spouse, but all she could think was, Lucky librarian.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulders. Vaguely she registered the wall behind her, pressing hard against her back. His clever tongue tangled with her own, sending fresh waves of desire rippling through her.

Even as her body screamed Yes! she slid her hand between them, firmly pushing him backward and breaking the connection. “I can’t do this. I don’t want to get hurt again.” Her eyes searched his before she turned her head to look away. If she looked into those eyes for one more second she would forget all about saying no and let her body do whatever it wanted.

 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday Book Review: Oath of a Warrior, by Mary Morgan


Oath of a Warrior, by Mary Morgan
Legends of the Fenian Warrior, Book 2
Published July 2018 by The Wild RosePress

About the Book:

Fenian Warrior, Rory MacGregor’s love conquests are legendary, but he has never spoken of the one mortal female who captured his heart. After his dark secret is finally revealed, he is ordered to return and seal the wounds left open by her death. Yet, he finds the timeline altered and swears an oath to rewrite fate, even if it brings about his own death.

Erina MacIntyre is known for her healing herbs and love charms. Determined to aid others, she refuses to listen to the whispers that call her a witch. When a Highlander steps forth into her path, he ignites a thread of strange familiarity and sparks a flame of desire she is unable to control.

Can the destiny of two lovers find love once more among the ashes of death and betrayal? Or will history repeat itself, leaving a scorching path of destruction for both mortals and Fae alike?
MY TAKE:

Mary Morgan writes in a lyrical flow that sweeps you along with her time traveling Fae warriors as they battle injustice and romance their heroines. The magic and romance blend to bring this paranormal tale to life in brilliant color.

Rory MacGregor is a member of an elite Fae warrior Brotherhood. He and two others broke several rules to help another clan of warriors in another series by Morgan, Order of the Dragon Knights. Each of the three Fae were imprisoned separately to await their trials. Book one told the first tale of trial and redemption, this second book tells Rory's story.

He's sent back to relive a defining incident in his life, to 1600s Scotland, but warned not to tamper with the delicate threads of time. When he gets there, the timeline has already been altered, giving him a chance to do things differently, despite being warned not to make changes. But how can he stand by and watch the same injustice befall the one woman he has ever loved... Even if she is only human, and he's sworn to never love or marry.

While I've read other books by this author, I missed the previous book in this series and found myself a little confused in the beginning. The machinations of the Fae court and Rory's anger toward his friend puzzled me. Once Rory traveled back in time and the action began in earnest, I was completely invested in the story and the romance. Rory and Erina make a wonderful couple, especially since Erina is as independent, opinionated and stubborn as Rory is. The heat between them is scorching!

I love the research and dedication by the author to making her characters and settings so authentic. I felt utterly transported to the Scottish Highlands, as well as enchanted by the Fae realm. Fans of Diane Gabaldon's Outlander series (like me) will appreciate Morgan's rich, detailed descriptions and colorful dialogue.

This was a wonderful reading escape for an unseasonably blustery and cold summer day, and one I highly recommend. Now I need to go back and read book one, while I eagerly await the next story in this series!

Grab a copy today: