Book Review From the Verge: Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood

You know that I love Margaret Atwood and am incredibly excited to see her in the spring, so it’s only fitting to do a quick re-read of some of her books. Good Bones and Simple Murders is a collection of whimsical-caustic-witty-parodies-and otherwise wonderful short pieces. She skewers the traditional views of women in fairy tales, reveals the chauvinism in the story of the little red hen, and otherwise reveals a cynical side in this interesting variety. She even adorns the pages with black and white illustrations that she has drawn.

As a writer, I read these stories and, while many are quite stabby, I can’t help but admire her turns of phrase. I marvel at how she expresses things for readers to puzzle over and consider. She is a master of her craft, whether writing novels or short fiction.

If you prefer your poison in small doses, pick the book up and read one story at a time. Some of you, like me, won’t be able to resist what delectable dish she will serve up next.

Rating:  (4.5 / 5)

Writing Like You Mean It

I recently went to a brief writing retreat at a cabin reserved for writers near the Finger Lakes. It was, to put it mildly, remote. But the windows offered a lovely view of a lot of rain on leaves that were turning color. The rain is probably what kept me writing. No temptation to go outside. It’s funny how negatives help you. No TV, no problem. Sure, you say, you can stream on your computer. Not with spotty Internet you can’t. And my sweet husband left the cozy cabin every morning for nearly the entire day so I could focus.

And I focused. I wrote 11,683 words that weekend. And I think most of them are grammatically correct and in pleasing sentences for someone to read. Or not. I’m almost afraid to look at them. In fact, when I picked it back up, I read the last thing I wrote and just went forward from there. Yes. I just moved on. Didn’t even reread what I had read. Sort of the NaNoWriMo state of mind, only without all of those other rules.

Anyway, I had written myself over a hump and into a corner. Good thing the weekend ended at that point because I had no idea what was going to happen next. Which might be good because the reader will hopefully wonder as well. For now, I am shuffling out of the corner carefully. I know it will all be changed when I revise, because everyone knows that first drafts are all rubbish. I have to get from the place I am now to the end I know. I’m not sure what happens between here and there, but it will come to me as I sit down and start to type.

I’m writing like I mean it. I’m serious about it. I’m sitting down and only looking up things if they are research for something in the manuscript. I take short pre-planned breaks to check email and social media, but mostly when I’m writing, I’m writing.

If you’ve taken on the NaNo… good luck to you. If you’re writing a novel on your own, cheers! If you’re writing poetry or short stories or memoir or journaling… keep it up! Write like you mean it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Book Review: The Missing by C.L. Taylor

William Morrow, and imprint of Harper Collins, was kind enough to send me this book for review. I usually ghostwrite reviews for another website, but I’m trying to increase this type of content here, for you. Of course, that’s if you happen to stop by and read it…

This is the first novel I’ve read by C.L. Taylor. Genre? Psychological suspense, so if you like Jonathan Kellerman, Gillian Flynn, and some of Dean Koontz’s work, you may be interested in this one. Although I’ve compared her to all American novelists, Taylor is British, so perhaps I should throw in a Minette Walters.

In The Missing, 15-year-old Billy Wilkinson is, you guessed it, missing. The story is relayed by his mother, Claire, who is unreliable. Very unreliable. Deception, omissions, lies, and twists to Billy’s tale will keep you up at night, reading “just one more chapter.” At least that’s what happened to me!

My rating: (4.5 / 5)

Mini-Spoiler-Free Review: Mister Tender’s Girl

If Mister Tender reminds you of Slenderman, you probably aren’t the only one. There are bits and pieces of the legend of The Slenderman throughout Mister Tender’s Girl and if you know anything about him, you’ll see them. If not, you should do a little scary research sometime, though it is not necessary before reading this thriller.

Mister Tender is a graphic novel character. One that is not terribly tender, despite his name. He inspires fear in readers and actually gets into the heads of some teen girls who attempt murder for his approval.

The novel explores the daughter of Mr. Tender’s creator. Alice of paranoia and fear of knives. Everything pushes her buttons. Someone could mean her harm… is it in her head or real? Is Mr. Tender out there somewhere? Is he looking for Alice?

I read this in two sittings. I really loved the psychological elements and the suspense. If you like thrillers and don’t mind looking behind you for a few days after reading, go for this one!

Review: Stone Mattress: nine wicked tales by Margaret Atwood

In case you missed it, I am incredibly excited to be front row center to see Margaret Atwood in the spring. With that in mind, I am reading some of her books that I’ve missed over the years. She is my author-idol. I know, it’s very fangirl of me, but I can’t help it.

Stone Mattress was published in 2014. It’s nine wicked tales are just that, tales. They are much more than short stories.

Short story: a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

Tale: a fictitious or true narrative or story, especially one that is imaginatively recounted.

These nine wicked tales include three interconnected narratives and six standalone fables. All have wickedness in them and it doesn’t take much to imagine the sly smiles of the characters, and likely the author.

You probably want me to compare this collection to something you’ve read before or another author. Seriously? Do you even know who Margaret Atwood is? She is the author you try (weakly) to compare other authors TO. You’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale haven’t you? If you are watching the series on Hulu, that’s all fine, but if you haven’t read the book, well, shame on you. And you are missing the most amazing writing… I’m getting upset just thinking about you watching the show and not reading the book. I can’t go on…

Read Stone Mattress if can’t commit to a full novel for whatever lame reason you have because everyone should read every single day even if it is only for a few minutes and this is just going to go into a tirade about reading and has already set off my run on sentences so just read it. The book. Now.

I’m Going to See Margaret Atwood!

I’m trying to calm down, but it’s difficult. Margaret Atwood is my idol. She is just amazing. Her writing, her knowledge, her ability to share amazing ideas with the world… I’m all flustered.

Front row, center. Yep. That’s me. I can’t really stop dancing right now, so I’ll have to tell you more later.

Oh, wait, if you only know her because you have hulu, that’s cheating. Go read the books.

 

YA Author Interview from the Verge: Kama Falzoi Post

InHuman, Kama Falzoi PostI love to introduce new authors! Kama Falzoi Post is here for the first of a two-part interview in preparation for her upcoming YA novel, InHuman. With Nanowrimo in full swing, it’s great to find out that a newly published author wrote her novel during Nano. In other words, don’t give up. I’m thrilled to introduce Kama Falzoi Post.

Kama, tell us a little about yourself.

Someone told me, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” I chose writing and stuck to it. My stories have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines, including Inkwell, SmokeLong Quarterly, and most recently in the anthology Outliers of Speculative Fiction. My first Young Adult novel, InHUMAN (BookFish Books) is scheduled to release in December of 2016. I live in the cold Northeast with my husband, son, step-kids, and a plethora of animals.

This all started with NaNoWriMo? How did you get involved in it? Was this your first time?

The idea for the story was pretty solid in my head. Since NaNo lurked just around the corner, I took it as the stars aligning, and decided to go for it.

What did you think of Nano?

It was helpful in so many ways. Fifty thousand words can seem daunting, but when you see others experience the same hardships and successes as you, it becomes doable. And borderline fun! Because in order to get that many words on paper in that short amount of time, you have to pretty much trample your inner editor and leave her writhing in a ditch. As a writer, that’s a difficult thing to do. Without that constant voice telling you how much you suck, you’re free to unleash whatever you have inside. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment when you hit that goal.

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I am a recovering pantser. NaNo was pantsing it all the way. I learned the hard way that pantsing doesn’t work well for me. I would rather take the time upfront to brainstorm a skeletal structure, theme, and some character arcs, because going back to the manuscript afterwards and cleaning up fundamental plot and character issues is a monumental chore.

What was your prep method?

It was very complex. I sat at my computer and started banging out words.

Do you use a novel writing software (Scrivener, etc.)

Nope. I used Microsoft Word and a notebook that I carried everywhere in case inspiration struck.

Give us an idea of your thoughts at the beginning, middle, and end of Nano.

Looking back, it was analogous to a race. I started at the gun with a lot of energy, hit my stride, smiled into the wind and so forth. Halfway through and thousands of words behind, I began to doubt myself. Times like that you have to rely on discipline. It’s a dangerous time but it doesn’t last long. I powered through it, got out the (mostly terrible and completely unusable) words, and headed for the final stretch. The last week or so I was just looking at word count. I think I had actually finished the story and had no idea where to go with the rest.

After Nano, what was your first instinct – how did you feel about the novel and did you think it would get published?

Frankly, the novel was an embarrassment. But that was okay! Because as I found out later, the REAL writing starts when you begin to revise. My initial stab gave me a great foundation for what was to come, but it would take a lot of work to get there. I didn’t think it would ever get published. I moved on to the next thing.

How long did it take to get the book in “publishing shape?”

Years. Years and years. Like I said, I had a foundation, but it needed refining. I had to chip away at everything to figure out what I wanted to say. Then rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite. Each rewrite took me a little closer to my goal. Eventually, I felt like maybe I had something.

What venues did you pursue to get your book published?

I queried agents for about a year. I had NO idea what I was doing. With each rejection, I polished the manuscript a little more, and polished the query even more. I did a few Twitter contests. Finally, a publisher (BookFish Books) showed interest and asked for a synopsis and my first ten pages. After about a week, they requested a full. I signed the contract a month later. The full story of my road to publication is published on my blog here, with a nice call out to NaNo! https://kamafalzoipost.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/the-road-to-publication-is-not-paved-at-all/.

What was the most difficult thing about the Nano? About the entire process?

For me, the most difficult thing is always finding time. I have a demanding full-time job, two teenage step-kids, and a five-year old. What may traditionally be a months-long process for some becomes a years-long process for me because of my obligations. I’m working on that…

Will you come back to tell us more about your book, INHUMAN?

I would love to!

Watch for Part 2 of our interview with Kama Post and get ready to purchase InHuman from Amazon on December 15!

 

 

If I Fall, If I Die

I put off reviewing this book because I wasn’t thrilled by it. A mother with crippling agoraphobia who basically cripples her son’s ability to live a normal life…  It was put-downable, and I almost never give up on a book.

I was really  hoping for more, based on the description, but I was disappointed.  I just can’t recommend this one.

Meet “The Widow”

widowCV-v3

I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of The Widow by Fiona Barton. You know that I don’t like to give spoilers, so let’s just say this: If you like mystery, enjoyed Girl on a Train, and need a good read if you happen to snowed in (me), this is a great choice.

No spoiler summary: Nobody knows what really goes on behind closed doors… except for those behind them.

Meet author Fiona Barton on her website to find our more.

FionaBarton-shot02-JennyLewis-33 higher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Fiona Barton