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So Long, Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan Hyde (Review)

5 out of 5 stars           Book Review

 

Spoiler Alert:  In order to write a formal review (which would include telling a little about this fascinating story), it would be riddled with “spoiler alert” warnings.  So I won’t.

Instead, I want to write about this author’s uncanny talent for concepts.  She writes about people, everyday people, about life, and how messy it is.  It may not be a conscious thought, but somewhere inside you, you are wondering, ‘How did she come up with this concept for a story?’ 

In my interview with Catherine, she addresses how she comes up with her stories:

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

CRH. When I have finished a novel and turned it over to my agent, I know I need a new idea. I open up to a new idea, and I meet a character. I generally see a glimpse of them, having some sort of life experience. Then I spend a few weeks in my head, with nothing down on paper yet, coaxing them to tell me more. (end quote)

That’s what I tell my writers (fans); to keep their eyes and ears open because you may get a mere glimpse of your next character. Just waiting there, in the shadows,  for you, so they can tell you their story. 

But I digress.  If you have never read another book, be certain to read So Long Chester Wheeler. It’s a distillation of everything that’s so wonderful and horrid about the humane species. Beautifully written. Like Catherine examines each word to make sure it’s worthy to be in her story before she lays it down.  And, as with most of her books, there are lots of surprises, plot twists and turns the reader never sees coming. 
This author is everything we mere mortal writers should aspire to be.  Sharpen your pencils!!  

Available now at your favorite book store!

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Watch for more interviews with authors.  November:  Horror writer, Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

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Monday Motivations for the Writer! #7

You know a story has been rattling around in your brain.  TODAY is the day you will find time to sit down and write the first sentence, the first page. But you say, “I can’t get going. I can’t write it. Where do I start?”

Sit down and write an essay about yourself. Write down everything you’ve always wanted to say…but couldn’t or wouldn’t.  
Somewhere inside that essay are the bones (the outline) of your short story, your stage play, or your novel. It may not be even a whole sentence. It may be just a phrase. So look closely, as it may be hiding in plain view. 

Don’t worry about what will follow.  The story will lead you. If you are very lucky, your characters will take over and tell you their story.

‘It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.’ William Faulkner

“Writing is a Tryst with the imagination and a love affair with words.” Unknown

The reader, the book lover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be.” ~ Teddy Roosevelt

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‘As a writer, I marinate, speculate and hibernate.’  Trisha Sugarek

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Watch for more interviews with authors.  November:  Horror writer, Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

Women of Straw ~~ Book Review

1 out of 5 stars

 

This book was a real disappointment.  The writer has few, next to no, writing skills.

The dialog was average in this book, relying heavily on colloquialisms and platitudes. This writer needs to focus on her dialog writing skills rather than using these crutches. The story is told with “one voice,” and I suspect that voice was the author.
The fact that the uncle was a predator, set loose in a house full of women, was telegraphed way too soon in the storyline.

The POV was jumping around. As frequently as in the next paragraph rather than in a specific time span or the next chapter. I found it very distracting.

The women were too namby-pamby ( regards the uncle), considering that they had survived the father’s death and still maintained the running of their business.

The straw hat-making was the most interesting thing in the story…it should have been the story. And there were a couple of characters that were not fleshed out (developed) and should have been.  

I try very hard to read books I know will win a great review.  As my mission is always to lift up and support other writers.  Couldn’t do it this time, sorry! 
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Watch for more interviews with authors.  November:  Horror writer, Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

Monday Motivations for Writers! #2

2A.girl.write..mouse_1Writers! Jump-start your day with more Monday Motivations!

Build up to writing the great American novel. Maybe that’s what is stopping you…the idea is so daunting. Remember there is no one great American novel.  There are just writers trying to tell great stories.   Start with a short story.  Or a piece of poetry.  I find ‘story-telling’ much less intimidating that way.

 “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  Ernest Hemingway

“what matters most is how well you walk through the fire”  Charles Bukowski

“I always try to be a learner.” Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer-prize winning writer, Professor UNC, contributing writer for the NY Times. 
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‘As a writer, I marinate, speculate and hibernate.’  Trisha Sugarek

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Nothing You Write, if you Hope to be any Good….

Lillian Hellman (Author of The Little Foxes and Children’s Hour)  once said, Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped.”

As a writer, that has happened to me over and over.  In the early days of my writing, I was appalled that the story was going somewhere that I had not planned for.   The characters would lead me down paths I had no intention of going down or writing about.  Now I accept this strange phenomenon that happens not just to me but to other writers as well.

     A glaring, or perhaps glorious, example of a story taking an unexpected turn was when I was writing Women Outside the Walls.  My plan for the storyline was that this would be a cozy little story of three very different women coming together while visiting their men in prison.

A third of the way through this project, Charlie, while sitting in the prison’s visiting room, jumps up, grabs Kitty, and, holding a shiv (knife) to her throat,  takes her hostage.  I  sat at my keyboard and wailed aloud, “No!  No, you can’t!  I don’t know anything about hostages……or hostage negotiations!” Too late! He’d already dragged Kitty to the back wall, and pandemonium had broken out.  The prison went on emergency lockdown, and there was nothing I could do! There I sat at my keyboard, dead in my tracks.

It took me four months researching hostage negotiations before I could resume working on my novel.  I had not the faintest clue as to how I would finally resolve this room being taken, hostage.  And I want to stop here and thank the federal and state hostage negotiators who assisted me in my research. While they would not share any of their techniques, they agreed to look over my story and tell me where I was off base. They allowed me to send them this segment of my novel for them to critique and assisted in keeping my portrayal accurate.   Before you COs jump all over me about the gun, I did take dramatic license with that.  

I have learned to anticipate and enjoy it when the story takes on a life of its own.  It’s my fondest wish to become, simply, the ‘typist’.  When my characters take control and tell me the story!

(Reprised 2013)

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Watch for more interviews with authors.  September: Culley Holderfield. October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November: Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

Strong Writing vs Sloppy, Weak Writing

Dear fellow writers,

The one thing that gives me hives faster than nettles, hives, or food allergies is SLOPPY TENSE by a writer!

I am currently reading a book (Spinning Jenny) that could have been an excellent story, could have been pretty good writing for a debut book, and could have some well-thought-out and developed characters except for the writer (Sylvia Ann McLain)  who wrote the entire thing using the present tense. Then slipping into past tense and frequently mixing the two.  (Grrrrr….teeth gnashing.)

Here’s a sample, quoting from the book:  “Children race about, babies are wailing, and clusters of women talk among themselves. Some sit by themselves with Bibles in their laps.  Farther off in the woods, blacks (did they use this term in 1833?)  have set up their own camps; their tents are made of quilts thrown over ropes between the trees.”

Edited:  Children raced around, babies wailed, and clusters of women gathered to talk amongst themselves. A few sat by themselves with their Bibles in their laps.  Further off into the woods Negroes set up their camps.  Their tents were made by throwing quilts over ropes tied between the tree trunks.

and:  “But back at Carefree, there’s a body waiting for her to view it. She dreads it as she drives up the hill to her home.  A body! Has she ever seen a dead person before? Not that she remembers. Why can’t Sophronia get up out of her bed and do something for once? But it’s getting on to twelve o’clock. She has to hurry.” 

Edited:  A body waited for her to view back at Carefree. Stephanie dreaded it as she drove up the hill to her home. A body! Has she ever seen a dead person before? Not that she remembered. Why couldn’t Sophronia get up out of her bed and do something for once? But it was close to noon. She had to hurry.

I like to use italics for internal dialogue but it’s not a rule.   What is a grammatical rule is “i.n.g.’ ing” every other word is poor writing no matter how you look at it.  

There is no rule set in stone somewhere that fiction must be written in the past tense. But it is the accepted and expected tense that 98% of writers use.  More importantly, readers expect it even if they are unaware. 
99% of the time, if a book is written in anything other than past tense, it has not been written that way on purpose; the writer is new, and the book is their first one, and they are ignorant of what is expected and what the industry standard is.  It makes them look like the amateur that they are. 

PS. Finally. Finished it. This book was a real slog. And then to find out the ending was a setup for a sequel. The storyline didn’t support that. Ugh!!!!!!

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Watch for more interviews with authors.  September: Culley Holderfield. October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November: Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

Poem Featured on Home Page of PoetrySoup.com

Dear Trisha,

Congratulations, this is just a quick notice to let you know that your poem The Farm is one of the poems being featured on the PoetrySoup.com home page this week. Poems are rotated each day in groups of 14-16 to give each poem an equal opportunity to be displayed.
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Thanks again and congratulations.
Sincerely, PoetrySoup

The Farm ©
by Trisha Sugarek

Fields of mustard seed
as far and beyond the eye
the farm dogs return
dusted in yellow

The clapboard grey of the old
farm house stands in testimony of
generations of pea farmers,
hunters, fishermen, and cooks

Heady fragrance of a farm dinner
immerses the senses as the screen
door slaps open

The matriarchal voice sings out
‘tea party!’ A call to supper

the city folk sit around a battered
and scared wooden table laden with
baked chicken, fried steak, mashed potatoes,

green beans and corn that hung from the
vine just minutes ago

Her biscuits and corn bread are the stuff that
dreams are made of

Later they all sit on the warped porch steps
and listen as the geese honk their way in to
the fields and their nightly time of respite

Bats fly across the moon, frogs call out their
secrets, a loon wails its loneliness

For more poetry:  Click here
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Book Review ~~ The Boardwalk Bookshop

4 out 0f five stars  ~~ Book Review

 

No surprise here. Susan Mallery dishes up another excellent contemporary fiction for women. A great story with lots of plot twists and romance. A real page-turner. 

This time three women who don’t know each other share a lease on a retail space none of them can afford by themselves. They set up shop, books, muffins, and gifts, right off the sand, on the boardwalk in Santa Monica, California. Each has been wounded by love in the past, romantic or familial; it all hurts the same. 

All three main characters are equally balanced with in-depth storylines, so the reader has the opportunity to care about each one of them. Will their particular shop succeed? Will true love win out?  How many nasty turns will life serve up before the women find happiness?

I highly recommend this as your next book. But it’s no secret (by now) that I’m a huge fan of Susan Mallery myself.

Did you miss my Interview with author, Susan Mallery?
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Author, Donna Ashcroft shares with us (conclusion)

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

DA. No, I don’t think so. While digital books are usually cheaper and easier to store and buy, I think a lot of people still enjoy the way a paper book smells and feels. It’s more of an emotional experience. I receive a lot of messages from readers who want to know how to get hold of my books in physical form.

Daisy–the old lady

Q. What makes a writer great?

DA. For me anyone who can transport me from everyday life into a different world and make me lose myself is a great writer. Bringing people and situations to life on the page is a kind of magic.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

One of this blogger’s favs

DA. I begin my novel by brainstorming the types of people I want in my story, what do they want, conflicts they might encounter and what do they need to learn?

Then I come up with a ‘hook’ or something that will draw readers in. I create ‘books’ of information about my stories which include pictures of my characters, location photographs (I find this helps me to really picture my setting and helps to make it real). I use a website call Pacemaker to plan my writing schedule ie when the deadline is, how many words I need to write each day to get the first draft completed on time. I generally write my first draft in three months, once I’m happy with it I deliver it to my editor.

Usually after a week I receive structural edits. These involve adding scenes/removing scenes/deepening conflict and addressing anything my editor things doesn’t work in the story. This tends to be the most major part of the editorial process. Sometimes my edits take a few days, but they can take up to a month. It all depends on how much work the book needs. After the structural edits are okay’d I work on line edits, then copy edits and then a proof read. The final stage of the process involves me reading through the final files before the book is created. Publication day is the end of the process – this involves promotion on social media, in newsletters and thanking people for support. I tend to end the day with a glass of something fizzy!

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

DA. Because my books are character driven, I think everyone I meet or speak to and everything that has happened to me influences my writing. I tap into

Dylan

experiences when I’m dealing with heartbreak or conflict in my novels. It’s not always the exact same experience, but the feelings are the same.

Q. Do you have children? If yes, how do you carve out ‘writing time’? 

DA. This is how I keep my two lovely teenagers from disturbing me mid flow (in truth: it doesn’t work and they still barge in). Seriously, I wouldn’t be without them. I can get a bit obsessive about my writing and end up stuck at my desk for hours so it does me good to have some company and distraction!

Q. What’s your down time look like?

DA. I read a lot, enjoy swimming, walking and classes at my local gym. I love networking with other writers and spending time with family and friends.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

DA. I love romance and don’t plan to change to another genre.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

DA. If you want something in life, behave as if you already have it.
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Did you miss the beginning of this Interview?
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Coming soon!  August: Author, Jay Hartlove

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Interview with author, Donna Ashcroft

Donna Ashcroft declared she would be an author at the age of twelve and used to write voraciously. During her career, Donna worked in publishing, online retail and as a freelance copywriter until she started her family.  She had two children and finally decided she’d reached her “now or never” time. She joined the Romantic Novelists Association and started to write seriously in 2016. In 2018 (after penning a number of novels) she was offered a publishing contract by Bookouture and has been with them ever since. Her debut novel, Summer in the Castle Café was shortlisted for the RNA Debut Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2019.

She says, “I love a happy ending and am never more content than when I’m escaping into a romance novel or movie. When I’m not reading or writing I’m probably swimming, or negotiating with my OH or teenagers about who is doing the washing up.”

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

DA. I work in my spare room. It’s a small space so we had to take the bed down and I have the headboards along one wall! I’ve tried to make it into a lovely space with a heart banner, plants and pictures of my novels. When the sun is shining though I love working outside in the garden. My ‘dream’ workspace would probably involve a pool and somewhere I can shelter from the sun but take a dip whenever I wanted to.

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.)

DA. In the mornings I have to have coffee (multiple) and can’t start work without a caffeine hit. I also always have water on the go and drink plenty as the day progresses. I have hand cream on my desk as it’s good to just take a little time out sometimes to have a mindful moment as I’m applying it.

My office

Other must haves include pens, pretty notebooks and post it notes which I make notes on all the time! I also have a ball instead of a chair for when I’m working in an attempt to look after my back.

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

DA. I’ve been training to do a 1.4km open water swim since March – the swim is this weekend and I’m terrified but I always think it’s important to try  new challenges. I’m a qualified life coach and NLP Practitioner. I don’t practice but I think the learning experience was useful to understanding behaviour in both myself and others.

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

A daily walk with my friend’s dog Tiggy

DA. I usually like to make notes on a pretty notepad when I’m brainstorming but I then hop straight onto the keyboard.

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

DA. I’m a full-time writer so I write between 8am and 6pm on weekdays and sometimes I work in the mornings on weekends. I take regular breaks to refresh my mind and body.

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

Heart banner in my office

DA. Treat writing like a profession. You can’t wait for your muse, you just have to get on with it. Often I’ve spent a day writing chapters I think are awful, but then I often discover a nugget in there that’s worth keeping. Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration with a little talent thrown in.

 

Join us next week for Part 2 of this Interview
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Coming soon! July’s author interview with Donna Ashcroft.

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