Archive for the Category » A Writer’s Take…… «

Book Review ~~ The Impulse Purchase by Veronica Henry

 

5 out of 5 stars       Book Review

 

‘Ah, well, thereby hangs a tale. I’ve just bought the village pub. Rather on impulse.’  And what a tale it is! The only trouble with author, Veronica Henry’s books is, we (readers) never want the tale to end. 

Stock-in-trade is Henry’s excellent writing.  Deeply developed characters that we love (or hate), that we fall in love with or wish they were our kids.  Believable and likeable and human. A delicious read. The exact perfect balance of descriptive writing and dialogue. One of this reviewer’s pet peeves. 

I don’t write synopses of the books I review. That’s not a reviewer’s job.  Just know that you will miss out on a terrific ‘tale’ if you don’t read this book. 

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Did you miss my interview with Veronica Henry?
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Review ~~ Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

5+ out of 5 stars  Book Review

 

Odd, loveable, quirky characters are sprinkled throughout this story. From the first page they  seduce and beguile the reader.

Stewie, a 10 year old boy (when we first meet him) is passively neglected by his overly taxed, older sister.  His Gam has recently died and as a way to stay connected to his much beloved grandmother, he adopts and takes over the care of her chickens.  During his ‘egg route’ he meets Marilyn, another grandma-type with the same rough edge as his Gam. 

And that’s where I’ll leave the spoiler alert.  The writing is done with the same brilliance we have come to expect from Catherine Ryan Hyde. Her turn of phrase is unapparelled.  Her balance of descriptive text and dialogue is near-perfect. And my readers know how too little dialogue irks me!  This will never happen in a Hyde book.  The characters are well thought out and deeply written. Hyde ‘shows’ you her characters; never tells you who and what they are. And who else could get a beautiful story out of a young boy and his chickens?

I highly recommend this book to my readers. If you loved Allie and Bea (and I did!) you will certainly love Dreaming of Flight.

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Did you miss my interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde
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Writing isn’t a calling; it’s a Doing!

Lillian Hellman said this. ‘If you hope to be any good, nothing you write will ever come out as you first hoped.’     It is true and if you are truly lucky it will happen to you.

In my novel, Women Outside the Walls, I have waited until Joe dies at Charlie’s hands to share with you the back story of how the last chapters of my book came to be.   How I experienced this lucky event of my book not turning out as I had first hoped.

In the play script version , this is where the story ends; Joe dying on the cold floor of a prison and Charlie’s line:  “I got you to find Chelsea, didn’t I?”  And this was where I had planned for the  novel to end too.

IF I had not been working closely with a woman who had ‘stood by her man’ for 15 years while he was in prison. Women Outside the Walls Shortly after he was paroled, her son received 13 years for manslaughter.  She has been there, done that, times two!  After SK (the woman outside real walls) read the last pages, she looked up and asked: “What happened to Charlie?  To Alma?”

I looked blank for a moment. I was, first and foremost, a playwright after all. Then replied, “do you think anyone would care?” She said, “Absolutely.  Is Charlie in a death penalty state?  Does Alma stick by him?” she asked.  And “By the way, what happened to Hattie and her kids?”

The problem was I had no experience with death row……BUT I did have SK, whose son narrowly avoided the death penalty when he  pled down from murder two to voluntary manslaughter.  SK never spoke of those dark days when she thought she would lose her son when the state executed him.  Now she was willing to speak of it with me.

Based upon her stories and the stories of her friends (other women outside the walls) I was able to write those
final chapters.  Did Charlie walk down that long hallway to the ‘needle’?  Was anyone there to witness his death?
You might be surprised.  And yes, what happened to Hattie and Kitty?

Try to explore everything you can about your characters’ lives.  Don’t leave a single road untraveled.  We all care about what happens to the villain!

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Book Review ~~ A Spanish Sunrise

 5 out of 5 stars ~~ Book Review

 

Sigh. Another delicious, wonderful story from Boo Walker.  Perfecto! Magnífico!   We all know him for his fabulous series, Red Mountain.  Plopping his readers down amongst the vines in northern California. Introducing us to wonderfully drawn characters that we could savor through the series. 

With  A Spanish Sunrise, he takes us on a journey of loss, grief, fear and love. A Dad and his little girl, each seeking peace in their own way.  And then a surprising and shocking email arrives one day.  Enough said, I try not to write spoilers. 

A little while ago I wrote a “teaching” book review about the writer who ‘tells’ the story instead of ‘showing’ the story with the actions and dialogue of his characters.  This book is a perfect example of ‘showing’ the story.  Through the characters’ voices I could smell the loam in the olive tree orchards. Feel the hot sun on my shoulder, taste the pungent, spicy oil on my tongue.  Because Walker showed me, through his characters’ actions and dialogue. He didn’t tell me “the oil was good.” 

I’ve read most of Walker’s books; maybe all of them. A Spanish Sunrise is my all time favorite from this wonderful writer…..so far.  It would be divine if this was book 1 of a new series. Boo, are you listening? 

Did you miss my Interview with Boo Walker ?
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A Teaching Book Review

This could have been a great story, a fascinating, enjoyable family saga spanning several generations.

Instead, the writer, Bill Kitson, chose to tell his readers the story, instead of showing them.  Chapters of telling, telling, telling.  Then a half page of dialogue and ‘showing’.  For example, the rift between patriarch, Albert, and his son, James. Albert’s decline into dementia would have been an interesting sub-plot if the writer had shown it; not told it.   Jesse’s arduous journey from war-torn Europe back home to England. The First World War (section) was reduced to a few chapters of ‘telling’. Ugh.  Leaving this reader not caring about Kitson’s characters much at all. 

The characters that this writer created were interesting, predictable in places, but on the whole pretty good. But, with the storytelling style of ‘telling’ rather than showing who these people were they were not deeply drawn.  Dialogue enriches not only the story but the characters.  Telling rather than showing is, to my mind, a lazy way of writing.  

for the story.                                                                                     For the writing. 

The formatting was distracting. The pages were not titled with the traditional title and author’s name.  In the front or back, there was no list of Kitson’s other books; a missed marketing opportunity. There was no author biography. 
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Create an Audio Book!

Several years ago a friend asked me, “when are you going to create audio-books?  Your kids’ books would do great.  Anyone under the age of 25 is ‘listening’ to books not reading.”   This friend even found www.acx.com (Audiobook Creation Exchange) for me so I had no more excuses as to why I wasn’t putting my books on audio.  Since acx.com was an Amazon company, I knew there would be quality there and a great distribution plan in place.

It’s a pretty easy web site to use and they have a very large ‘stable’ of narrators to choose from.  As the author, you are in control every step of the way.  You start by posting an audition excerpt from your book.  Professional narrators then send you their audition.  I have always received 8-15 auditions for each book, so I had many to choose from. You can pay them outright from a sliding scale (which is my preference) or give them a percentage of the book sales.  It took me two tries to find the ideal narrator, Carin Gilfry, for my children’s books.  She is open and friendly and extremely patient making any changes I want, no matter how small.

Book 1 in series

After you find your narrator and they accept your terms of the contract, there are very easy steps you go through as they narrate your book.  You proof chapter by chapter, (on line) ask for the corrections or tweaks via acx.com email or personal email.  

I then went on to launch my true crime series into audio-books. Daniel Dorse is the voice of my lead detective, Jack O’Roarke of the NYPD. His voice is right out of the Jack Webb, Dragnet era and I love it! 

Tip: You should always review and edit the manuscript that you are converting to an audio book before giving it to the narrator.  I find that with an audio book, I delete about 50% of the:  ‘she said.’  ‘he replied.’ ‘she exclaimed.’ ‘he told her.‘  They are just not necessary because you have a voice telling the listener who is speaking.

The result is that I have a steady stream of sales every month from these books.  

Emma and the Lost Unicorn
Dance of Murder 
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Reading Books!

This was my journey with books except for the frustration part.

Somewhere around #7 “Rediscovering books” I began to seriously write. Stage plays to begin with…then children’s books….

then full length novels and poetry. And then more stage plays. But always reading…reading…reading.  Non-Stop! 

Books take you away…to far off lands, to adventures which you’d probably never have, and
to meet other people from all walks of life. 

Keep reading, keep writing……remember,

Writing isn’t a calling….it’s a doing! 

 

 

 

(acknowledgement: www.grantsnider.com)

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Book Review ~ Olivia Holmes Inherited a Vineyard

 4 out of 5 stars ~~ Book Review

In one of my recent searches for new authors to read (and maybe review) I bought this one by Mark Daydy. I wasn’t

 enamored of the title…too long, not very creative and certainly a spoiler alert. Why did the writer give away the plot of the whole story? I thought, ‘a much better title would been  Vineyard in the Moonlight or Grapes to Glass or The Vines. I could go on and on about the wrongness of the title but instead of giving it a pass, I bought the book. 

Next I’m not a fan of a man writing chick lit (fiction for women). They simply don’t have the empathy to write about women for women. I scoffed but ran my credit card anyway. 

I’ve been eating crow with each page that I turned.  This was an excellent story, with well drawn characters.  There was a certain crispness that I don’t find with female authors, much as I luv ’em.  My only critique was that Olivia was a bit ‘wishy-washy’ at times. It would have been a stronger story if she had been more decisive about (for example) leaving her job. She could have done it sooner in my opinion.  But what PANACHE! when she finally did it!  

I’m looking forward to reading the sequel very soon.  

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Conflict, Lighting, Sets……Action!

As a playwright you better find some conflict in your story. Little Women had soft, cozy conflict but make no mistake there was conflict. Romeo and Juliet had glaring conflict represented by a family feud that wrought murder and mayhem. To be successful, you must have antagonists and protagonists in your plot.
CONFLICT: It is a challenge to write conflict with dialogue only. There is no description (like fiction) where you can tell the reader how angry and against something your antagonist is. Granted you have the characters right there in front of you, to tell the story with their body language but the dialogue carries the day and is the difference between weak writing and strong, successful writing.
Using examples from a recent play of mine, I will demonstrate conflict in simple, but successful (to the overall plot of the play) terms. A children’s play but the rules still apply and are no less challenging because it’s a kids’ play. Perhaps even more of a challenge.
Sub-PLOT: The sooner the plot is revealed the better. If you haven’t engaged the audience in the first three minutes, you don’t have a very good plot. 

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Back in the day when there were truly ‘starving actors’ we started up theatre companies all the time with a couple of platforms and four ‘spots’ that one would use in a shop in the garage at home. This is a cheap ($12. a piece) adaptable, portable light. You can even attach a gel to the cone for a few pennies per gel. Use blues for night and warm colors (amber) for day. Each light has a wire running back to the control desk/booth and while you won’t have a dimmer option, you must be able to turn the light off and on.

When we started our own company, we had to be totally portable as our performance space could be an art gallery, a café, a gymnasium, or school auditorium. Anywhere they would allow us to use their space. All sites had to be vacated when the weekend was over and then loaded back in for the next performance date.

We could light just about any play with four of these clamp-on, shop lights. The purpose of any stage lighting is to light the actors and the set. If you don’t accomplish anything else, you need to make certain this happens. If your stage is in a very small space, it’s not super critical to light the actors brightly. Just be certain they stay in the light, which is where the director’s blocking comes in.

Even if you need to stick to the basics of simple illumination, lighting makes everything feel more professional and helps the audience to better focus on what is going on, on the stage. Theatrical lighting doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Lighting is about making certain that you can see the people on stage and that the moods of the play are represented and amplified.
Clamp lights aren’t the be all and end all. You’ll have to live with the shadows that they cast.
But remember, this is all you can afford now, and you’ll also need to be able to break it down and take the lighting with you.

I still remember the thrill when we could finally afford a couple of Klieg lights.

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Most theatres have a set designer who creates the set based on the director’s vision. But it is important that the playwright sees the set. Where your story takes place. If your set requires two different scenes/sets and you have structured the play around two sets you must think about time and money. Anticipate the cost because you want the director to choose your play to produce. But if the cost of more than one set is too much, your play might never be chosen.
An envelope design works nicely for the need of two locations/sets in one play. The first set in created on the outside fold of an envelope. When the scene changes the ‘flap’ is opened, like a tri-fold (by the stage crew) and a new set/location is used. Set pieces (Furnishings) have to be changed out and this calls for some cleverness on the director’s part.
One play comes to mind that I directed: The Cemetery Club. The main set was a living room of one of the female characters. But I also needed a Jewish cemetery. The four widows went there every month to visit their dead husbands and maintain the gravesite.
So what I designed was a single backdrop (scenery). What you might see out the living room window. Then I furnished the living room with set pieces. Sofa, chairs, coffee table, lamps, etc.
Upstage on a riser I created the cemetery with three graves. I designed starfoam monuments with the Star of David on the downstage side. The women would walk up on the risers and, while gazing at the graves, deliver their monologues. It worked because the actors believed it. Thus the audience believed it.   The magic of theatre!
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Review ~~ Sunday at the Sunflower Inn

5 out of 5 stars   ~~   Book Review

First page, first sentence, the reader meets McCoy and is hooked.  A broke-down, wounded, homeless handsome cowboy. Who can resist?  This new book is part of the “Honey Creek” series. 
   
The other characters in this story are equally empathetic and interesting. Jam, Tucson, Pecos, Pop Sadler, to name just a few. My only criticism (if you can call it that) is I would have liked more paper and ink dedicated to McCoy’s story. 

This is a story of small town, USA; Honey Creek.  Infused with colorful and interesting characters that only Jodi Thomas can serve up. 
The writing is supurb…it is Jodi Thomas after all. 

On Sale: April 26, 2022
Did you miss my Interview with Jodi? 

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