Want to Successfully Publish? First, Are You a “Real” Writer?

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Kristen Lamb's Blog

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For many writers (me included), we don’t start off with the confidence to yell to the world, “I’m going to be a professional author!” Heck, I wrote a 178,000 word “novel” and still didn’t believe I was a writer. Later, I had over a year and a half of consistent blogging under my belt, multiple short stories, and newbie novels that had been at least good enough to win prestigious contests and yet….

I was not a “real writer.”

Schrödinger Writer? If you put a writer in an office at a keyboard, is the writer alive or dead (real or fake) until the book is published?

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We’ve Come a LONG Way, Baby

The literary landscape has shifted dramatically. More avenues of publishing have opened and become appealing, thus this silly question of, “Are we a real writer?” holds far less power. Believe it or not, when I began blogging, I dedicated…

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Book Review: This Private Plot by Alan Beechey

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This Private Plot  by Alan Beechey

Poisoned Pen PressThis Private Plot

ISBN-978146202407

305 pages Genre: Mystery

Alan Beechey’s latest, This Private Plot,is a wonderful romp. His character,  Oliver Swithin, is a children’s book author that is currently working on a trivia book. We travel with him to his childhood home in a small village appropriately named Synne, which I am pretty sure is pronounced “sin”. Swithin is with his girlfriend, a police officer that reports to Swithin’s uncle, who is also on holiday in Synne.

While out on a naked midnight romp in the “Shakespeare Race” an authentic turf maze, our couple finds Dennis Breedlove, a former children’s television personality, hanged. The police think it is suicide, because a blackmail note is found. It turns out that Breedlove is actually the blackmailer.

Swithin is on the trail of the killer. Several trails actually. Convinced that one of the blackmailers is the killer, Swithin tries to match up suspects with the nursery rhymes Breedlove used to identify them. With the help of his girlfriend and unheeded warnings from his uncle to stop, he discovers that Synne has more than its share of secrets. They include a strange writing group run by the Vicar, a couple which may be the same person, a recluse monk and possibly his own family.

All of sleuthing is going on while Swithin’s brother is trying to prove there were two William Shakespeares and his uncle is starring in a local theater production of Hamlet. There are great tidbits of information on Shakespeare as well as other bits of trivia shared by Swithin while this story unfolds.

Beechey is a master of double-entendre. From names such as Lesbia Weguelin (to which I read “let’s be a wigglin’) to the name of the actual town. Swithin talks often about living in Synne. More than once, I stopped to read a particularly funny line to whoever was near me at the moment.

This mystery is so wonderfully British in the spirit of Agatha Christie with the humor of P.G. Wodehouse, I simultaneously laughed and was intrigued. At times, this book was a bit bawdy, but never graphic, I did not find it offensive. Deliciously tangle plot that is perfectly tied up by the end of the book, with a beautiful, unexpected twist at the end.

This is the third book in Beechley’s Oliver Swithin Mystery Series. It was the first one I’ve read and worked very well as a stand-alone mystery. Swithin is an endearingly wacky character. I want to see more of him and the other characters that Beechley skillfully brings to life  .

 

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars

John Green

Penguin Books

313 pages Genre: YA

 

Seventeen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster is dying.  She tells us in the first chapter. “…depression isn’t a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”  Due to her depression and dying for that matter, her mother and doctor want her to be in a support group. She grudgingly goes, pretends to listen then escapes back home to enjoy the latest addition of her favorite reality show.

Ironically, the only friends she really can relate to are those in the dreaded support group. Isaac who has a rare cancer that will leave him blind and his friend Augustus Waters, a newcomer to the group, make her feel as normal as she can while dragging her ever present oxygen tank behind her.

Augustus was once a star basketball player until cancer claimed one of his legs. He is a video playing, wise cracking guy. Hazel opens up to him in a way she has not connected with anyone in a long time. She tells him of her favorite book, Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. It haunts her because Van Houten ends the book in the middle of a sentence and Hazel feels she has to know the end before she dies.

Van Houten lives in Amsterdam. Gus and Hazel end up connecting with him, but find the source of her obsession may just not be worthy of either of their efforts.

The most striking thing about this book is the concern Hazel has for her parents after she is gone. She is afraid they will divorce or maybe even curl up and die themselves because they no longer have anything to focus on after caring for a dying child for the last several years. This was not an egotistical assumption on her part, she is afraid she has robbed them of their lives.

Wise beyond her years, Hazel also wishes people will look at her and not see someone with cancer. She just wants to be Hazel Grace. That is so profound for a young adult novel. Hazel is wise beyond her years. Not afraid of dying, she is afraid of what her dying will do to anyone close to her. She feels like a bomb ready to explode so she keeps everyone she can at arm’s length so they won’t be hurt when she dies.

I highly recommend this book to young adults and adults. I especially recommend this book to anyone who has or has had a child with a serious illness. Speaking firsthand, it is difficult not to worry, coddle, make exceptions for and obsess about a sick child. Even when they get better, it is hard to see them as well. We need to look beyond the illness and at the person. No special treatment, no worrying about what they eat or don’t eat even though it is hard to treat them like their siblings.

Kudos go to John Green for writing a wonderfully emotional book from the viewpoint of a dying teenage girl. If I could give it more than five stars, I absolutely would.  If you have seen the movie, I beg you to read the book. Everyone has heard “the book is better than the movie”. Even though the movie was good (aside from the teens loudly trying to out- sob each other) but so many important plot points were left out,  you need to read this book.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

Book Review: The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

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The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club

byBeach book Gil McNeil

We meet Jo MacKenzie when she is moving out of her London home. Her life changed forever with the death of her husband. The only problem is, her life would have changed anyway, because he was leaving her for the woman he was having an affair with. He told her upon his return from a business trip, promptly left her and unfortunately died in a car accident on the way to meet his lover.

Jo can no longer afford to continue her life in London, and doesn’t really want to. Her grandmother offers her a lifeline. She has a small cottage in a tiny village by the sea that Jo and her two small sons Archie and Jack can move into. Gran is also ready to retire and hand over the family knit shop to Jo, so the small family travels to an entirely new life.

Adjusting to a new home and job is difficult enough, but Jo has to contend with the ghost of her cheating husband, keeping him alive in the boy’s memories, all the while unable to express her anger and pain he caused her before his untimely demise. For years she had been covering his inadequacies as a husband and father and it appears she will have to do so the rest of her life.

Don’t mistake the overall theme of the story as sadness, that is far from the reality of the plot. Jo enjoys her quieter life away from London. Her friend, a television news personality, frequently comes to visit, bringing her own kind of crazy caring chaos that only a best friend can creates.

A domineering mother, grandma, sons and newfound friends round out her new life. Her children are delightfully ordinary. Bickering and teasing each other, getting into typical little boy trouble and begging for a dog.

Throughout all of the changes in her life, the knit shop becomes her constant source of satisfaction and growth. She makes subtle and not so subtle changes to the shop and inventory, forms a “Stitch and Bitch” group and becomes a private consultant-on-call to a famous resident of the village.

This thoroughly engrossing novel was a delight to read. Then characters have varied, interesting lives and goals, which work together in this small village. Readers can genuinely connect with them because most of them are ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, just making their way through their world. It is heartwarming to watch their growth and adaptation to the challenges they face, not always winning, but carrying on anyway.

You may think that you would have to know about or be interested in knitting to enjoy this book. I don’t believe you have to know a thing about it, there aren’t any technical issues that would prevent your enjoyment even if you have never picked up a pair of needles or a ball of wool.

I loved this book. My thanks go out to my daughter-in-law Andrea for giving it to me last Christmas. McNeil has written several books, including a newly published novel A Good Year for the Roses. I’m adding it to my wish list for next Christmas.

Published by Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN-10:1-4013-4080-6

404 pages

Genre: Fiction

 

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

Book Review: Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer

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Capacity For Murder

Bernadette Pajer

Poisoned Pen Press

252 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Capacity For Murder, the third book in Pajer’s Professor Benjamin Bradshaw Mystery series, opens with a cry for help via telegram from Dr. Hornsby, owner of Healing Sands Sanitarium in Ocean Springs, WA. The Dr. begs Professor Bradshaw to come to him immediately, because he is a leading expert in electricity and there has been an “accident of electrical nature”.

Reluctant to leave Seattle for the untamed coastal retreat, Bradshaw declines at first. Nevertheless, the lure of mystery, science and the fresh ocean air eventually convinces him to help. He sets off with his young son, the college students from his summer school class, his close friend Henry and Henry’s sister Missouri.

Upon his arrival at Healing Springs, Bradshaw finds Dr. Hornsby an emotional mess. He appears to have accidentally killed his beloved son-in-law with an electrotherapy machine. The Professor soon realizes the machine was sabotaged, making this a murder, not an accidental death.

The patients at the Sanitarium are sequestered on the property until the killer is found. The odd  rules and foul smelling food served is as off-putting to the Professor and his group as the array of strange characters they have to interview. Most of them seem to have the motive to kill the victim.

The reader learns about Professor Bradshaw’s personal life as he fights his attraction to Missouri as the demons in his past that keep him from her. Meanwhile, Henry plays a perfect Dr. Watson to Bradshaw’s Sherlock Holmes as they look for clues to find the killer.

Pajer brings history to life through this wonderful work of fiction set in the early 1900’s.. Oftentimes I read books that have facts in them that I assume to be true, but they could possibly be a fragment of the truth wrapped in fantasy to fit the story line. Capacity For Murder has a seal on the front proclaiming it was “Peer Reviewed & Approved for Science” by the Washington Academy of Sciences.

This certification cannot be taken lightly. Her manuscript was approved and certified after a “rigorous scientific review” determining the science in her novel is accurate. This is by far the most interesting and enjoyable science lesson I have ever read.

Professor Bradshaw and his cohorts are likeable characters. The mystery was fun to try and solve along with them as the clues stacked up. Sometimes I find it is difficult to pop into an established series without reading the previous books. This is not the case with Pajer’s book. I did not feel lost or confused; she perfectly wove in backstory without dwelling on it to bring new readers into the story. This is a solid standalone mystery, and I enjoyed it so much I will seek out the first two and look forward to a fourth.

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: Fade to Black by Jeffrey Wilson

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Fade to Black

Fade To Black

Jeffrey Wilson

Published by Journalstone Publishing

ISBN-978-1-936564-85-9

254 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Fade To Black pulls the reader into a life and death gun battle between six Marines that were separated from their platoon and an unknown number of insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq on the first page. Bullets fly and men die. One of the sniper’s bullets finds Sargent Casey Stillman, critically wounding him as he tries to save his fellow Marines.

He fades from consciousness only to wake up screaming. He isn’t dying in the hot, sandy street, but falling out of the bed he is sleeping in with his wife, Pam. The sounds, smells and horror of Fallujah slowly fade as he realizes he is home with his wife and his baby daughter is sleeping down the hall. He is not a Marine Sargent; he is a high school science teacher, Jack.

Jack’s horrible nightmare is so real he cannot stop thinking about it. His life feels somehow off kilter, familiar things seem foreign to him as he tries to make it through his workday.

His nightmares increase and Jack begins to think he is crazy. He seeks help from his family doctor, who sends him to a therapist. Pam stands by him, surprisingly calm during his struggle to grasp reality. Things get worse. He starts seeing the Marines killed in his dreams when he is awake. He knows facts about the men who died in Fallujah as if he really was their Sargent. How could he be Casey Stillman, when he was never in the military? Is he Casey or is he Jack?

Jeffrey Wilson’s third novel is a nail-biting, heart-stopping, gripping story told with such detail the reader is grabbed by emotion from the first page to the last. This book appeals to many different tastes on numerous levels. It is a war story – but not typical. It is a story about the love a man has for his wife and daughter – but not a love story. It is a mystery – just who is the main character? Is it Jack or is it Casey?

Wilson served in Iraq as a Marine combat surgeon. He brings the realities and horrors of war to the pages of his book with sounds, smells and images. Layered with emotions Fade To Black is an amazing, sometimes uncomfortable ride, but one you won’t want to put down until the last page is read.

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: The Boogie Trapp by Kerry Copeland Smith

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The Boogie Trapp

Kerry Copeland Smith

The Peppertree Pressboogie trap

ISBN-978-1-61493-112-6

356 pages

Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

Alabama backwoods in the 1940s was a smaller community than it is today. Poor families lived side by side, facing day-to-day struggles of survival, just trying to make ends meet and feed their family. Young boys growing up during these times given freedom and responsibilities that would be considered crazy today. They spent time in the surrounding woods and creeks, riding bikes and trying to outwit other boys their age while charming the girls in town.

Written as a memory being brought to light, this story is a confession of sorts. The story of best friends beginning an adventure that was much more than they bargained for.

Boogie and his best friend Trapp were cigarette smoking, beer snitching, girl chasing 13 year olds without fear of the future. They went to church with their families, respected adults and occasionally swiped a few dollars from Boogie’s older brothers to buy a soda or gum.

Dressed up in their Sunday best, Boogie and Trapp can barely contain their excitement. They were invited to a boy/girl party; rumors about kissing games being the featured entertainment made them more nervous than they wanted to admit. They spent the hours before the party goofing around and even found a way to make a bit of money.

Then the day went terribly wrong. Their lives were changed forever as the events tumbled over, around and through them faster than a perfectly chosen rock sent from Boogie’s slingshot. Would they live to tell the tale?

Kerry Copeland Smith hit a home run his first time at bat. He pulls the reader into the Deep South with vivid descriptions of sights, sounds and smells.

The pictures of a quieter time, before cell phones and the internet, that held heart stopping terror that rivals the horrors of today’s headlines fill the pages and the reader’s head.

If you only choose one new author to read this year, make it Copeland Smith.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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