Tag-Archive for » friendship «

One Candle Can Light Another

Gary Swindell
1961-2020

One day a good friend called me; Gary was  a very accomplished pianist, guitarist and musical director. He was reading my book of poetry, Butterflies and Bullets. He went on to say that while reading my work he kept hearing music in his head. And could I give him permission to use my poetry for lyrics. What a compliment! He said he was especially taken with, “Hair-cut…Two Bits”, about a down-and-out cellist, gambler and barber in New Orleans.

Gary  had previously written a song based on my play, Scent of Magnolia (Billie Holiday).  The world lost a beautiful musician and friend this past December. 

We artists, regardless of what we do or what we write, should lift each other up whenever or wherever we can.  When I review a book I make certain that my review (if bad) lists helpful and constructive criticism and is never cruel. 

It is my hope that my posts relating to writing helps a new writer begin their journey in writing….and helps experienced writers learn something new. My hope is to light someone else’s candle of creativity.

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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New Fiction for Women: Mini Book Reviews

         I am always on the prowl for new authors (to me) to read, review and interview. If I’m lucky I find them to my taste for my pleasure reading too. An added bonus! These mini-reviews are books I wanted to share with my readers and unsolicited by the authors.

Christmas at the Beach Hotel by Jenny Colgan          reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing 4 out of 5 quills

A wacky little story set in a wacky little village on a remote rock (really) jutting out of the north Atlantic sea. The sentence structure, the run-on sentences and the odd flavor and cadence of the language made this writer/reader wonder if English was the author’s first language.  Rather than distract from the story, it turned out (at least for me) to add charm and credence to the unlikely characters living, willingly, on the harsh and unwelcoming island that is Mure.
It took a couple chapters in to fully believe in said characters and stop wondering why anyone in their right minds would live there. I recommend this book and look forward to the next one I shall be opening soon.
 

Seabreeze Inn by Jan Moran   reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing   
                                                                   4 out of 5 quills

I’ve been reading Jan Moran for awhile now. Very enjoyable contemporary stories set along the coast of southern California.

Seabreeze Inn is a series set in what was an old private home, now, out of necessity, turned into a charming Inn by a reluctant widow. Her husband, recently deceased, had neglected to tell her about his acquisition. She is quite surprised to find herself the sudden owner of an old house, with back taxes past due, broke on top of everything else. Its beautiful location on the beach and steps from the sand inspires her to convert the house into an inn. Throughout the series the old house gives up its secrets and becomes another vibrant character in the story line. 

The characters are well drawn and very plausible. The reader will be  happy to know that there are more challenges, conflict, surprises and love interests in the following books. 

    reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing        5 out of 5 quills 
                                    Married To The Rogue  by Mary Lancaster

This Regency romance is a perfect mix of good writing.  A fun, interesting story, several love stories woven in, and a hint of sex. Written in the style of Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh, the raciest romance scenes go no further than the kissing of fingers, the inside of a lady’s wrist, one or two passionate kisses….and the rest is left to the imagination of the reader.  This is my favorite approach to sex scenes in this genre. When an author is blatant, for no apparent reason, I find it is frequently to compensate for weak writing. A Literary Commentary

Married To The Rogue is strongly written. Deborah is a self assured young debutante who finds herself painted into a corner of scandal where there appears to be no escape.  Christopher is a young peer who has political ideas far ahead of his time and has an urgent need for a wife. 
Having just discovered Mary Lancaster, I look forward to reading more of her books. (Hurry up, Amazon!) 
I highly recommend this book to my readers.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ The Daydream Cabin

4  out  of  5 quills                             Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Light, funny with a twisty, ‘feel good’ ending. Piney Wood Academy sounds like a well-heeled, private school for boys or girls whose parents can afford it. Wrong. It is a well-heeled, private boot camp for juvenile delinquents whose parents can afford it. And it’s a last stop  before serving serious time in ‘juvie’. The girls who are sent there are incorrigible and are not going to go quietly. 

The Daydream Cabin teaches the readers what boot camp is really like. This reviewer enjoyed learning something new. The writing is good, as we have come to expect from author, Carolyn Brown. The characters are well drawn and empathetic. I recommend this book to my readers. 

Did you miss my Interview with Carolyn Brown?

 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with Author, Lauren Willig (part 2)

Future writer

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

LW. There’s something to be said for the famous Nora Roberts dictum: “butt in chair”. But I do believe there’s something to be said for productive procrastination. Are you procrastinating because you just don’t wanna? (Trust me, there are days when all of just don’t wanna.) Or are you procrastinating because there’s something wrong with the story and your subconscious mind needs some time to worry away at it? What I usually do is try to power through (aka butt in chair, coffee in hand), but if powering through doesn’t get me anywhere, then it probably means that there’s something fundamentally off and the best possible thing I can do is go browse through the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, call my college roommate, or buy pumpkin themed goodies at Trader Joe’s. Giving yourself license to not think about the book and do something else entirely can give you the room to make sense of what’s not working. I’ll be on the Trader Joe’s checkout line or a in a dressing room and have that “aha!” moment when I’ll realize that the reason I’ve been stuck for a week is because I have the scene in the wrong viewpoint, or the scene doesn’t need to exist, or I’m trying to shoehorn my characters into doing something that works for the plot but isn’t true to their character. So… procrastination ain’t all bad. Just watch out for the just don’t wannas.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

LW. Baroness Orczy, the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, said that Sir Percy Blakeney walked up to her one day at a London Tube stop. I’ve never had a character accost me on the subway, but they do tend to pop up in all sorts of strange places. Generally, mine jump out at me from whatever historical source I’m reading. For example, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, came about because I was researching Christmas customs in Picardy during World War I (for a different book) and stumbled on a memoir by a Smith alum, talking about throwing Christmas parties for French villagers in the Somme in 1917. I thought “what on earth is a group of Smithies doing on the front lines in World War I?” And that was that.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LW. I was six years old. As I saw it at the time, my choices were ballerina, princess, or novelist, but since I can’t dance to save my life and no-one was considerate enough to offer me a hereditary principality, I was really left with no other option but to focus on fiction. So I told my first grade classmates I was going to write books. And I did. I was rather disappointed when my first novel was rejected by Simon and Schuster when I was nine, but I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and kept on at it.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

LW. A little from Column A… a little from Column B…. It’s the old chicken and egg question. For me, the two tend to be bound up together. The characters are shaped by the situation and the situation is formed by the characters. I write historical fiction, so there’s the added layer of characters being shaped by their times.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LW. I read recently about a state called “flow”, where there is nothing but you and the task. And that pretty much sums it up. On a good day, the world around me falls away and there’s nothing but me and the characters. I come to at some point to realize that hours have passed and my coffee’s all gone. Those are the best sort of writing days (aside from the whole disappearing coffee bit).

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

A. Right now I’m working on a prequel to my upcoming book, BAND OF SISTERS. (Release date in March; don’t miss my review of this fine book.) BAND OF SISTERS is about the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers on the front lines. While I was writing it, I became fascinated by the charismatic and eccentric founder of the Unit, a ground breaking archeologist who periodically dropped everything—her career, her children—to bring aid in war zones. The real life founder of the Smith Unit had gotten herself tangled, right out of Smith, in both the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish American War and wound up being decorated by Queen Olga of Greece for her contributions war nursing. I wanted to know what she’d seen in Greece that made her plunge into the Spanish American War with the Red Cross—and what it was that turned her into a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian. I decided to go back and write her story, as a young woman just out of Smith, fighting to be allowed to excavate as an archaeologist with the boys and finding herself on the front lines of a war. That book doesn’t have a title yet (other than my working title, Smith II: The ReSmithening) but it’s slated to appear on shelves in spring of 2022, a year after BAND OF SISTERS.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Next week will feature the conclusion to this wonderful interview. Don’t Miss It!
Did you miss Part I?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ Breakfast at the Honey Creek Cafe

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing         5 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writing

 

Jodi Thomas has delivered again!  BREAKFAST AT THE HONEY CREEK CAFE is a new series, beginning with this title.  Jodi’s writing style is consistent and reliable. That means (to her fans and new readers) that she will always deliver flawless writing and  well drawn and thoughtful characters. 

Piper Jane Mackenzie, a small town mayor and a ‘travel’in’ preacher, Sam Cassidy meet while an undercover detective Colby McBride circle the wagons to her heart; sounds like a clique, right? Nope. It turns out to be a charming story written in Jodi’s unique voice, with characters that are provocative and intriguing.  You are pulled in before you turn the first page.

I am a fan and I highly recommend this book. 

Did you miss my Interview with Jodi Thomas?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~ Miss Janie’s Girls by Carolyn Brown

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

 5 out of 5 quills                           BOOK REVIEW 

Carolyn Brown has delivered again!  This new release is a heart-warming story of two young girls caught up in the CPS’s foster system. They finally land with Miss Janie until the ‘system’ spits them out at age eighteen.  Separated for years, they both circle back to Miss Janie.  Has their animosity toward each other survived the separation?

The writing is superb and the drawing of the characters flawless. I highly recommend this book for summer, fall or winter reading!

Did you miss my Interview with Carolyn? 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Interview with Author, Carolyn Brown

Carolyn and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, where everyone knows everyone else, as well as what they’re doing and when—and they read the local newspaper on Wednesday to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young. When she’s not writing, Carolyn likes to plot new stories in her backyard with her tom cat, Boots Randolph Terminator Outlaw, who protects the yard from all kinds of wicked varmints like crickets, locusts, and spiders. Carolyn Brown is the author of more than 100 novels. She’s a recipient of the Bookseller’s Best Award, and the prestigious Montlake Diamond Award, and also a three-time recipient of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Brown has been published for more than 20 years, and her books have been translated into 19 foreign languages. Many are available in audio format. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

CB. I have my own little office in my house. I only have to walk across the hallway from my bedroom to go to work each morning. My husband, Mr. B, built a wall hung desk for me to clutter up with notebooks, calendars, etc. I try to clean it off each time I finish a book. Note that I said, “I try”…most of the time I end one book, and the very next morning I open up a file for the next one.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

CB. I do like my pajama pants, but I don’t have a favorite pair. Nothing special, really…just that I get something down on paper (computer) each day.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

CB. I didn’t get a toe in the door of a publishing company until I was forty nine years old. I’d been trying to get someone to look at my work for twenty five years before I finally got a break. Someone asked me about that time what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I simply asked them, “Do I have to decide today?” The next week I got the call from an editor who said she wanted to buy both the books I had sent to her.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

CB. I use the computer to write. My thought process goes from brain to fingertips, but I use a notebook, spiral or composition either one, to make notes. I use one of those little inexpensive recipe boxes when I’m writing series. Each character, included dogs, horses and donkeys get their own index card, so I can keep up with age, eye color, height and all the information about that character for later books in the series.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

CB. I usually write from eight to fourteen hours a day, beginning in the morning and keeping at it until I finish my daily word count.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

CB. Write! Don’t Whine! Whining about my muse has left me, I have a block and I can’t write today so I’m going shopping or I’m going to lay out on the beach won’t work. If you want to be a writer, you have to be disciplined. Write something every day even if it’s crap. As Nora Roberts says, “You can fix crap. You can’t fix nothing.”

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

CB. Any and everywhere. Mr. B and I were in a little café having a burger when we were on a research trip. A lady came in with a bunch of kids. They were all from a group home for foster kids, and one little guy sat over by himself and didn’t talk with the others. That little fellow became an autistic child in one of my next books.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Tune in next Friday for the conclusion to this charming interview.
You can visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~~ An Unfinished Story by Boo Walker

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                5 out of 5 quills 

Die-hard fans of Boo Walker’s Red Mountain Chronicles really wondered what Boo would write about once he left the real red mountain wine country of Washington state. He transplanted himself to Florida, of all places. Boo knows so much about wine and growing grapes that it was hard to imagine what stories would be born out of the swampy, hot days in Florida. 

Oh ye of little faith (reviewer)!  An Unfinished Story is superb!  A bitter ‘has been’ writer and a grieving widow meet by chance and form an unlikely bond. The arc of the story is unexpected and fresh.  I loved the conflict,  the set-backs, the temporary truces, the tension, and the surprises.

Of course Boo couldn’t ignore the wine running through his veins totally so his protagonist, in this story, is a wine aficionado.  I loved the ‘nod’ to the Red Mountain Chronicles! Which is a series not to be missed. 

I highly recommend this wonderful story! 

Release date August 4th. Pre-order Now!

Did you miss my Interview with Boo Walker?

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~~ the Banty House by Carolyn Brown

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing                 5 out of 5 quills                                   Book Review 

This is a newly discovered (for me) author .  And what a pleasant surprise.  If the Banty House is any indication, this prolific author gives readers hours of charming stories. 

the Banty House is a charming tale of three old ladies who take in strays, from bedraggled kittens, to damaged heroes, to homeless young women.  Betsy, Connie and Kate are real eccentric characters who you can’t help but fall in love within the first few pages. That’s all I’m going to say, as you all know I don’t write spoilers. The writing is superb and you’ll find that you can’t put the book down. I love Carolyn Brown’s style of writing and look forward to reading more….and more. 

Even though Banty House was just released there’s already another story in the pipeline, to be released in late July, Miss Janie’s Girls. Can’t wait!

Don’t miss my interview with Carolyn Brown coming in August.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Interview with Author and molecular biologist , Joram Piatigorsky

Joram Piatigorsky penned his first novel, Jellyfish Have Eyes, following a distinguished career in scientific research at the National Eye Institute. He went on to author an autobiography, The Speed of Dark, in which he describes the influence and expectations of his exceptional parents – world-renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, who had escaped the pogroms in Russia, and Jacqueline de Rothschild, a Parisian heiress.

Joram’s parents fled France just days before the outbreak of World War II and weeks ahead of his birth. As the family’s first American citizen, he set out to find his own identity and voice while honoring his heritage, pursuing a career in science and as a writer.

His newest collection of short stories, Notes Going Underground  and an earlier collection, The Open Door, and Other Tales of Love & Yearning  are published by Adelaide Books. Both were illustrated by award-winning Spanish artist Ismael Carrillo.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

JP. I write in my study downstairs surrounded by my Inuit art collection, which energizes me, but also can be distracting. Large windows let the outside in, so to speak, and look out on the lawn, flowering trees (depends on the season) and woods; I see deer roaming, several foxes coming and going, squirrels galore and many types of birds. I don’t need blank space for my imagination to roam and concentrate. My space is what I’m writing.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

JP. I don’t have any special rituals that I follow before or while I write. I do try to keep my desk and surroundings somewhat neat. A messy place tends to make my mind messy too. As for dress: Sometimes I’m in regular clothes, sometimes exercise garb, but not pajamas. I leave those upstairs in my bedroom. Physical discipline helps me, as uninspiring as that sounds. When I start to write I typically go over what I wrote the last few days. The problem is that when I start looking over what I wrote yesterday I can’t help rewriting. That slows my progress, of course, but I can’t help it. I’m always rewriting, even in my mind once it’s published!

Before I quit writing for the day, I often remember what I read Hemingway did: Stop when I have an idea to explore. If I follow that advice, I can play with whatever my ideas are overnight, let them expand or shrink, mature, and I’m not stuck on how to start the next day. It doesn’t always work! Nothing always works.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

JP. Readers of my memoir, The Speed of Dark, know, I never feel fully at home in one world or another. I live in two mental universes. I was conceived in France with my mother Jacqueline de Rothschild, the daughter of the Rothschild French banking dynasty famous for their art collections among other things, and my father Gregor Piatigorsky, the renowned Russian 20th century cellist who lived through pogroms and escaped the Bolshevik Revolution as a teenager. My parents and 2-year-old sister eluded Hitler on September 3, 1939, the day France and England declared war on Germany, and made it to America. Whew, just in time! I was born the first American citizen in my family six months later in upstate New York and raised speaking French before English, with a European outlook. So, to some extent, I feel American in Europe and European in America. It’s not by fluke that my publisher, Stevan Nikolic of AdelaideBooks is Serbian married to a Portuguese woman, lives in New York and Lisbon, and publishes in both places.

My family and lineage were entrenched in art and knew nothing of science, yet I became a research scientist studying evolution and gene expression. Thus, I have always felt split between being a scientist by profession and an artist by temperament and family roots. After 50 years of science I switched to writing fiction, memoir and essays, another world to inhabit where I can express my artistic bent.

Inuit art

So, what else might you not know? Thirty years ago, I fell in love with Inuit art and have amassed a major collection of Inuit sculptures, so add that to my several worlds. And, oh yes, I played tournament tennis in Los Angeles growing up and took that very seriously, so there’s another world I experienced. … As I said: I’m a chimeric person, so to speak.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

JP. I prefer to write in the mornings when I’m fresh and my mind works better. Later in the afternoon is less productive for me, but I still often trudge on anyway.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

A. I hesitate to advise writers about procrastination or anything else, since, when I give advice, I’m really telling what has worked for me, not what they should do. And what do I do about procrastination? I force myself to write. Procrastination for me usually means I let other things interfere with my writing, so I do my best to put writing first and procrastinate the other stuff. I believe that procrastination often reflects that I don’t know what to write, not that I don’t want to write, so I’ll start and let the work bring the muse rather than have the muse stimulate the work. When I’m stuck in front of a blank screen, I’ll write something, almost anything, to get going and often keep at it even when I know it’s not quite right.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

Join us for part 2 of this Interview on May 21th
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky
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