Tuesday, December 31, 2013

27 Days of Journaling to Health & Happiness

Isn't it funny how things sometimes land in your inbox just when you need them? I am a firm believer in synchronicity, and I think that is what led me to inquire about Mari L. McCarthy's 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness workbook after seeing a Facebook post describing the course.

In the past year, I've been desperately trying to juggle my freelance writing career, polish up and submit two different children's novels, see to the needs of my family and put in some volunteer hours for various places and organizations where I can. What do you think happened this past fall? I crashed and burned, of course, coming down with a recurring case of strep that left me weakened, resentful and most of all, discouraged.

Mari L. McCarthy founded CreateWriteNow after journaling helped her restore feeling and function to her right side as a result of a damaging Multiple-Sclerosis (MS) flair up. She's gearing up for the 27 Days Life-Changing Journaling Challenge and if you are ready to take on the New Year with gusto, I would highly recommend signing up. The course is free with purchase of the workbook, which you can purchase here. Below is a description of the workbook:

The Peace of Mind & Body: 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness guide takes you on a step-by-step journey to identify exactly what it is you want -- and how to get there. In just 27 days, you'll find yourself on a clear path to achieving the peace of mind, health and happiness you want for your life. Personal growth and development can be hard work, but this workbook makes it easy.
Learn how journaling can help you:
  • Identify what it is you really want 
  • Work through difficult challenges in your life
  • Create a path to achieve the things you want for your life today
  • Be a healthier, happier YOU
I received a copy of the workbook and have been flipping through the pages, trying to get myself mentally prepared for what the process will bring. When I saw that several of the exercises included music lyrics, I got pretty excited, as I've always relied on music to get me through the creative process of writing. Other exercises include exploring childhood memories, reflecting upon your dreams, keeping a food log, venting to your journal without censoring yourself, and more.

Are you ready for the challenge? Order your copy of the workbook, head out and buy a special pen and notebook specifically for journaling and sign up for the Jan. 1-27 challenge here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Times They Were A-Changing Excerpt and E-book Giveaway

Today I am excited to share a special sneak peek at the fabulous anthology Times They Were A-Changing and offer up one e-book for giveaway.Take a look at the excerpt and see below for information on the book and the Rafflecopter form. And thanks for stopping by!

"Fast-Forwarding Evolution"

By Linda J. Nordquist

Summer 1961

A heat wave smothered the city of Detroit the summer I turned 
eighteen. Temperatures topped 100 degrees, and air-conditioning
 was rare. Nothing moved in the stagnant air.

I was struggling to shed my “tomboyish” ways, something my
 mother deemed essential if I was ever to “catch a husband.” Her turn
 of phrase brought to mind a bug-eyed catfish flopping on a wharf, a
 hook piercing his lip. This did not endear me to the marriage concept. 
Nor did her warning that, under no circumstances, should I
 ever compete with the opposite sex. Worse, if I found myself besting
 a man, especially intellectually (impossible as that might seem), I
 should retreat.

“Let him think he’s winning,” she said, dispensing her sapient 
advice confidently. “You don’t want to humiliate him, do you? You’ll 
never get a husband that way.”

Objections gurgled in my stomach. Don’t misunderstand. The 
resistance I felt to her advice was not cognitive. It was a feeling state, 
as if I teetered on the precipice of a great loss. Is it possible to grieve 
an unknown in advance?

Disarmed with her influence, I sat in my new boyfriend’s shady 
backyard sipping iced tea and, despite my best efforts at imitating
Grace Kelly, feeling every strand of hair kinking in the humidity.
 Dick was an art teacher and six years older than I. It was imperative
that I appear sophisticated and coy. I flipped the pages of Vogue 
while Dick poured over the newspaper.

“Says here,” he snickered, “that some women plan to defy the
Amateur Athletic Union’s ban on women running in men’s road
races. Why do they have to do that? They ought to leave it be.”
 My pulse sped up. Before I could stifle my impulsivity, I blurted,
 “Why shouldn’t they run if they want to?”

A raised eyebrow projected a look of mild tolerance.

Just in time for the holidays, Linda Joy Myers, Kate Farrell and Amber Lea Starfire launch their anthology Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s and '70s. The book is the perfect gift for opening discussions with friends and family members and illustrating what a powerful time the '60s and '70s truly were.

Forty-eight powerful stories and poems etch in vivid detail breakthrough moments experienced by women during the life-changing era that was the ’60s and ’70s. These women rode the sexual revolution with newfound freedom, struggled for identity in divorce courts and boardrooms, and took political action in street marches. They pushed through the boundaries, trampled the taboos, and felt the pain and joy of new experiences. And finally, here, they tell it like it was.

Through this collection of women’s stories, we celebrate the women of the ’60s and ’70s and the importance of their legacy.

Paperback: 354 pages

Publisher: She Writes Press (Sept. 8, 2013)

ISBN-10: 1938314042

ISBN-13: 978-1938314049

Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ‘60s & ‘70s is available in print and as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and She Writes Press and Indie Bound.

Find out more about the book online:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TimesTheyWereAChanging

Times They Were A-Changing blog: http://www.timestheywereachanging.com

Twitter: @womensmemoir60s

About the Editors:
Kate Farrell earned a M.A. from UC Berkeley; taught language arts in high schools, colleges, and universities; founded the Word Weaving storytelling project in collaboration with the California Department of Education with a grant from the Zellerbach Family Fund, and published numerous educational materials. She is founder of Wisdom Has a Voice memoir project and edited Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother (2011). Farrell is president of Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, a board member of Redwood Branch of the California Writers Club, member of Story Circle Network and National Association of Memoir Writers.

Linda Joy Myers is president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers, and the author of four books: Don't Call Me Mother—A Daughter's Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness, The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, and a workbook The Journey of Memoir: The Three Stages of Memoir Writing. Her book Becoming Whole—Writing Your Healing Story was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award. A speaker and award-winning author, she co-teaches the program Write Your Memoir in Six Months, and offers editing, coaching, and mentoring for memoir, nonfiction, and fiction. www.namw.org. Visit her blog at http://memoriesandmemoirs.com.

Amber Lea Starfire, whose passion is helping others tell their stories, is the author of Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts & Meditations (2012) and Not the Mother I Remember, due for release in late 2013. A writing teacher and editor, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and is a member of the California Writers Club in Napa and Santa Rosa, the Story Circle Network, National Association of Memoir Writers, and International Association for Journal Writing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors. www.writingthroughlife.com

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Catching Up

Wow! It's been quite a month. I apologize for being a little scarce around here, but I've been immersed in NaNoWriMo (almost there!) and I've had several freelance projects that required my attention. Here's  a little round-up of what I've been working on:

I'm excited to be helping the editors of the anthology Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s and '70s with their WOW! Women on Writing blog tour! I'll be hosting a stop right here on Dec. 10 and giving away one copy of the ebook. Check out the launch post for the tour dates and for your chance to win a hard copy of the book!

Recent blog posts for WOW! Women on Writing:
A Blessing in Disguise

Ready, Aim, Submit!

What 80s Movies Have Taught Me About Writing

Here's an article I wrote about a little boy and how he fulfilled his dream of a becoming a football coach through the Make-a-Wish of Central and Western North Carolina. Go Jack!

I'm also in the process of submitting a middle-grade novel to agents and book publishers, which could be a whole other job in itself!

I look back at where I was in my career even five years ago, and I am so grateful for how far I've come and how much I've learned. I can't really ask for much more than that!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Review: Bethlehem's Baby

When author Sheila Deeth contacted me to see if I would be willing to review her latest ebook of children's bible stories, titled Bethlehem's Baby, I was immediately interested. As a children's Sunday school teacher in a Methodist church, I am constantly looking for new and fresh ways to explain the materials to our students, who range in age from kindergarten to fifth grade. As you can imagine, you can't always use the same methods and explanations with an age group that varies that widely. 

Here is a synopsis of the book:
With the introduction of Bethlehem's Baby, Biblical author, Sheila Deeth, turns her prodigious writing talents to familiar tales from the New Testament. This Sixth Volume in the ever-popular Five Minute Bible Story Series looks the characters and events leading up to and immediately following the birth of the Christ Child...from Caesar Augustus and Herod to John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and many more.

This series of 40 linked short stories is aimed at the middle-grade reader. Each one is chock full of insights, information, and her trademarked quirky humor, making them a joy for youngsters. Each story contain Biblical references and ends with a prayer, making them work equally well for younger children at bedtime or naptime. Like all books in the Five-Minute Bible Stories Series they'll have your children begging for “just one more.” Contain Author’s Notes.

My review:
Even as an adult using a Quest Study Bible that works hard to annotate events and explain terminology in the footnotes, I still have a hard time understanding many of the stories in the manner in which they are told. I often borrow my daughter's Adventure Bible for help in streamlining the material. When I first took a look at Bethlehem's Baby, I'll admit I was a little confused. The way Deeth explains the stories in the book is unlike anything I've ever seen in a traditional Bible. They almost read in the style of narrative non-fiction, or even historical fiction. Deeth writes with rich, sensory details that really help the reader visualize the time and place of each story, such as this passage from the Baby Jesus story:

Joseph's family gave Mary and her baby woolen shawls to wrap themselves in. And Mary cuddled her child, peeking under the covers where she sniffed his newborn smell of warm milk and honey. Jesus' tiny fist was bunched just beneath his chin, his thumb still damp and his lips still puckered into a tiny oh as he blew milky bubbles. Mary smiled, feeling warm all over with love for her child.

Deeth also includes stories that provide historical context to what was happening around the time period as other stories in the Bible, such as the story about Caesar Augustus and the birth of Jesus:

Meanwhile, in one small, unimportant country called Judea, in the not very important Roman province of Syria, a very special family set off to register in the town of Bethlehem where the husband lived as a boy. While they were there, this little family had a baby boy of their own, a son called Jesus who was more important, wise, strong and powerful than any kind or president or emperor or army general or even than a Caesar.

Each story includes a related bible verse and ends with a short prayer. While my 7-year-old son enjoyed the stories, my 10-year-old daughter appreciated the tone and style of Bethlehem's Baby the most. When I asked her what she enjoyed most about the book, she said, "I liked all the details she put into the stories. It's really hard to understand the stories in the bible sometimes."

The author's notes at the end of the book provide even more historical context, including a timeline of world events and overview of what was going on socially and economically. I think Bethlehem's Baby is a great extension to anyone seeking the context and richer detail that is sometimes lacking in traditional biblical materials.

About the author:
Sheila Deeth is the author of several novels including Divide by Zero, Love on a Transfer and Flower Child, and of the What IF . . . S Inspired by Faith and Science books. With a background in the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Free Evangelical, Presbyterian and Christian Reformed churches, and a master's degree in mathematics from Cambridge University England, she calls herself a Mongrel Christian Mathematician. Now living with her husband in the Pacific Northwest she enjoys reading, writing, running  Coffee Break Bible Studies and the Writers' Mill writing group, and meeting her neighbors' dogs on the green.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How Do You Know When You're Ready to Submit?

I'm *this* close to beginning the book submission process. There, I said it out loud. Maybe that will finally convince me to spring into action. I've been thinking today about the question, "how do you know when you're ready to submit?" For writers, this could apply to a number of different things, such as:
  • applying for a copywriting gig
  • submitting a national magazine query
  • finishing a novel
  • starting a blog
  • taking a writing class
  • entering a writing competition
Over the years, I've prepared myself for various income streams. In order to gain more experience as a journalist, I've worked as a stringer for a metro newspaper and began writing parenting articles for regional parenting magazines and websites. I've held editing positions with regional magazines to learn more about how the magazine publishing industry works. I've conducted countless interviews in order to hone my interviewing skills and learn how to tell a better story. When I decided I wanted to take a stab at writing fiction, I wrote and revised and revised. And revised some more. I practiced writing in different lengths and genres, in different POVs and sharpened my voice. I entered writing contests. I wrote book reviews for my blog for extra practice. I shared my work with others and attended conferences. I had my worked critiqued. I picked up books on craft and researched agents through blogs and marketplace listings. 

None of this happened overnight. And rarely does success come easily for any writer. When I first started out, I expected to snap my fingers and make it all happen instantly. Of course, it didn't. And I'd be lying if I said I'm not afraid of the inevitable rejection notes, of hearing that "your project just isn't what I'm looking for." But I know it's all part of the process, and I'm ready for whatever comes my way.

In what ways have you prepared yourself for submission?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book Review: Paris Pan Takes the Dare

Because I'm writing more children's fiction these days, I've been studying books geared toward middle-grade and young adult readers. I was fortunate enough to hear Cynthea Liu give an inspiring keynote speech at the recent SCBWI Carolinas Conference, and after she shared her experience in writing and publishing Paris Pan Takes the Dare, of course I wanted to check it out for myself!

For starters, I LOVE the opening of this book. It's a great example of a voice that just pulls you right in:

Where should I start? The first time I felt my life hanging in the balance? Or the moment I believed the deceased had a way of talking to me? Or maybe I ought to begin with the second I walked into that school.
Looking back, I should have been suspicious from day one, but now I know that when you want something badly enough, you'll do anything to get it.
You'll lie to your friends. 
Steal from your family.
Eat a whole box of orange Creamsicles.
You might even go as far as taking the Dare. 

The dead talking to the main character? Lying, stealing, being the new girl in school? The 12-year-old in me was hooked from the first page. I could relate to the main character, Paris, whose Asian-American family made it a business of flipping houses and uprooting their three children at least once a year, as I had a similar experience in being the "new kid" throughout most of my childhood. Young readers will empathize with Paris, who makes friends with the wrong kind of girls in an attempt to fit in. There's the hint of a middle-school romance with a boy who has trouble speaking without getting tongue-tied, and there's a murder mystery involving a young girl who died on the Pan family property years before. The book is paced well, and I think Liu does a great job with character development. She weaves suspense in with humor and an interesting family dynamic, all while teaching a moral lesson that doesn't come across as too preachy.

I recommend Paris Pan Takes the Dare for any girls reading at the middle-grade level who are looking for a light thriller/mystery.

Twelve-year-old Paris Pan's life is a mess. She's just moved to a tiny town in Nowheresville, Oklahoma; her family life is a comical disaster; her new friends are more like frenemies; and the boy she has a crush on is a dork. Things couldn't possibly get worse, until she discovers that a girl died mysteriously years ago while taking the seventh-grade rite of passage--the Dare--right near Paris's new house. So when Paris starts hearing strange noises coming from the creepy run-down shed in her backyard, she thinks they could be a message from the ghost of the girl. But while she has no plans to make contact with the great beyond, her two new friends have other thoughts. Everyone who's anyone takes the Dare, and now it's Paris's turn.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

It's been awhile since I came across a book that I could not put down. Gillian Flynn's Dark Places appropriately cured me of that. I did so much reading over the weekend while on an anniversary getaway with my husband that I suffered from what I can only describe as a "book hangover" afterward. Have you ever had one of those?

I have yet to read Gone Girl, but it is on my wish list! However, I have read both Sharp Objects and now Dark Places after stumbling across them at my local library. I had a hard time putting down Sharp Objects as well but I did manage to guess one of the major plots early on. I also really disliked the protagonist in Sharp Objects, who was such a raging alcoholic I was afraid I was going to end up with alcohol poisoning by osmosis. With Dark Places, I kept thinking I had everything figured out but along the way there would be a small twist to alter my original guess.

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

Warning. This book is not for the faint of heart. It chronicles the massacre of a family, and because there are characters in the novel devoted to worshipping Satan, there is one disturbing scene of an animal sacrifice, which was difficult to read. Luckily it was over pretty quickly so I was able to move past it and it did help to illustrate the complete insanity of one of the major characters. The book successfully chronicles the 1980s "satanic panic" era and I could definitely see hints of Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three in the character of Ben, although the murders both boys were accused of were completely different.

Flynn writes crazy women well, there's absolutely no denying that. The opening sentences of Dark Places hooked me right in:

I have a meaness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It's the Day blood. Something's wrong with it. I was never a good little girl, and I got worse after the murders.

Part of the book is narrated in first person by the character of Libby, and alternating chapters are told in flashbacks from viewpoints of various characters such as Libby's mother and brother on the day of the actual murder. When done well, it's a device that really works, and it's part of what hooked me with this book.

Have you read any of Gillian Flynn's novels? Which did you like best?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions

Today I'm thrilled to be reviewing Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. 
Please read over the book summary and then check out the
review and giveaway below.

Book Summary:
Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) and Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they’ve all experienced and rejected extreme religions.

Covering a wide range of religious communities—including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah’s Witness—and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these women became involved, what their lives were like, and why they came to the decision to eventually abandon their faiths. The authors shed a bright light on the rigid expectations and misogyny so often built into religious orthodoxy, yet they also explain the lure—why so many women are attracted to these lifestyles, what they find that’s beautiful about living a religious life, and why leaving can be not only very difficult but also bittersweet.

Paperback: 328 Pages

Publisher: Seal Press (April 2, 2013)

ISBN-10: 1580054420

Twitter hashtag: #SLWExtremeReview

Book Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beyond-Belief-The-Secret-Lives-of-Women-in-Extreme-Religions/341371765891595

Author Bio(s):

Cami: Cami Ostman is an author, editor, life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist with publications in her field. She blogs at 7marathons7continents.com and on the psychologytoday.com blogger team. She has appeared in several publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Adventures Northwest, the Mudgee Guardian in Australia, and La Prensa in Chile. Cami is a runner and a dog lover who lives in Bellingham, Washington.

Susan: As a writer, editor and researcher Susan has worked on a variety of academic articles exploring psychology, feminism and religion. Susan’s interest in these subjects led her to become an editor for several non-fiction titles including Faith and Feminism and Rachel’s Bag. Her new anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions will be published in April 2013 by Seal Press.

Cami's Twitter: https://twitter.com/camiostman

When I first read the synopsis of the anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions, I knew I wanted to get in on this blog tour. Having grown up in a home with parents who didn't practice any particular religion, I came into my own faith after marriage and children. I have always been intrigued by some of the more "extreme" religions, although in saying that, I realize that the term "extreme" is in the eye of the beholder. I'm glad that I took the time to read the introduction to the book, because I might have been confused by the opening essays had I not. 

In the introduction, the two editors, Cami Ostman and Susan Tive, explained that during the course of compiling the stories for consideration in Beyond Belief, they received a number of very different "slice of life" essays. While they did receive examples of women leaving extreme religions, they also received stories from women who were born into a particular faith and chose to stay in it for various reasons. A lot of these essays can be found in the first half of the book, so I did find myself thinking that the direction of the book was not what I had expected at first.

However, I will say that by the time I got about halfway through the book I was hooked. One night, I went to bed before finishing an essay and actually woke up at 3 a.m. needing to continue reading. That almost never happens to me these days! Of course, there were some religions I was drawn to reading about more than others, but that is the beauty of an anthology organized in this manner, and there is a great mix of material. This book would have made for a lively discussion in one of my college women's studies classes. What I found particularly interesting was that one author would describe her religion in glowing terms while another writer 20 pages later was describing what so was extreme in the exact same religion that she had to leave. 

Ostman and Tive, who met in a memoir-writing class, made an interesting observation in the introduction of Beyond Belief, one that I believe describes the book well as a whole:

As our friendship with each other taught us, women living life inside extreme religions have much in common despite their differences of practice and belief.

Did you ever leave an extreme religion or know someone close to you that did? Or, are there any other memoirs about extreme religions you would recommend? Share in the comments section.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Writing Southern Fiction - Guest Post and Giveaway by Author Elaine Drennon Little

Today I am honored to feature a guest post by Elaine Drennon Little, author of A Southern Place. I asked if she could share her thoughts on writing southern fiction, and as a North Carolina gal who first discovered the likes of Flannery O'Connor and Pat Conroy in high school, I was not disappointed. Enjoy!

Southern Fiction

While my husband attended law school in Macon, Georgia in the mid-80s, I juggled quite a few interesting jobs: special education teacher, church music director, private piano and/or voice teacher, freelance newspaper reporter, and file clerk for a home alarm system company, to name a few. However, my favorite of all was shelving books at the Shurling Branch Public Library, housed in a strip mall.

I actually did more; I catalogued incoming magazines, put the daily newspapers on the “stick,” and made phone calls to both delinquent patrons. But shelving books was my favorite of duties: it took me to parts of the library where I’d never have ventured before.

Did you know that Isaac Asimov has books in practically every section of the library? Sure, I knew about the big non-fiction science texts, and maybe some of his science fiction, but from shelving books, I learned about his crime novels, joke books, weight-loss guides, and even cookbooks. How about The Complete Guides to both Shakespeare and the Bible? My favorites, of course, were on the lighter side: Lecherous Limericks 1 & 2, Too Gross Limericks, Limericks for Kids, and (drum roll here!) a one-of-a-kind treatise entitled The Sensuous Dirty Old Man. Need I say more?

It was on one of my around-the-library-with-the-book-cart treks that I discovered the special area I would dream about for the rest of my life: a lone singular shelf covered in houseplants bore a worn rectangular sign proclaiming “Southern Fiction.”

I had read every Pat Conroy book every written; he was what God sent when Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell wrote no more. But it was from that shelf that I met new friends I would treasure forever—Clyde Edgerton, Lee Smith, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Ferrol Sams. I formed a make-believe friendship with Jill McCorkle and Kaye Gibbons, and I swore that my father was the protagonist in Olive Ann Burns’ Cold Sassy Tree. Most of all, this wonderful little section of localized fiction gave credence to the fact that my insignificant life, with no great adventures or astounding contributions to mankind, just might be worth writing about.

In a recent interview for south Georgia newspaper The Albany Herald, editor Jim Hendricks went right to the heart of the matter with me.

“The writing bug goes a long way back. In high school, her English teacher, Virginia Jones, often urged her to write a book, Little said. “I thought that you had to have all these adventures first, had to have lived in the south of France,” she said. “I really didn’t have anything to write about. I had to live for a while before I had a perspective. I still can’t write about Paris, France, or the south of France, but I can write about what I know.”

These wonderful southern authors, with hearts as big as the Mississippi, drove home these stories of the plight of man with the wit and wisdom of the literary greats, yet they did so through conversations as common as a Sunday dinner in my native Newton, Georgia. They spoke MY language, and it was accepted (and loved) despite home-grown life and deep south idiosyncrasies I’d thought I needed to hide. If the world could handle the voices of Rainey, Ivy Rowe, and Virginia Turner Ballard, perhaps one day they’d listen to me.

I’ve been a bookworm all my life, and I’ve had my varied affairs with biographies, self-help, crime dramas, and book-of-the-month-club picks. There are a few authors I say I’ll never read again, only to find each new volume hidden in my grocery cart as soon as they hit the Kroger shelves. But those books are read and then given away, donated, or resold at yard sales. My collection of southern fiction is now even bigger than the one at the Shurling Library, so many years ago. It’s a part of me, and it’s staying.

There’s one big difference now: Between Harper Lee and Bret Lott is a slim, soft-cover volume with “Little” on the spine. And I’m hoping there will be many more.

Southern Fiction is the genre that drew me back to that long ago dream of writing. It the genre I enjoy reading most, but it’s also the one place in which I feel every author is speaking to me, personally. Is there an author (or authors) that whisper in your ear? Who? How long? Why?

Perhaps I’m not alone…

About the book:
A Southern Place is a moving book that is expertly written! Mary Jane Hatcher--everyone calls her Mojo--is beat up bad. She's in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life, is where this story begins and ends.

Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren't always what they seem, and Phil Foster--the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county--is no exception.

As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn't know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means.

Paperback: 294 Pages
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (August 6, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1937178390
Twitter hashtag: #ASPLittle

A Southern Place is available as a print and e- book at Amazon.

About the Author:
Adopted at birth, Elaine lived her first twenty years on her parents’ agricultural farm in rural southern
Georgia. She was a public school music teacher for twenty-seven years, and continued to dabble with sideline interests in spite of her paid profession. Playing in her first band at age fourteen, she seemed to almost always be involved in at least one band or another. Elaine’s writing began in high school, publishing in local newspapers, then educational journals, then later in online fiction journals. In 2008 she enrolled in the MFA program at Spalding University in Louisville, where upon graduation finished her second novel manuscript. Recently retiring after eleven years as a high school chorus and drama director, Elaine now lives in north Georgia with her husband, an ever-growing library of used books, and many adopted animals.

Find out more about this author by visiting her online:

Author blog: http://elainedrennonlittle.wordpress.com/

Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/elaine.d.little

I have one copy of A Southern Place to give away to a lucky reader! To enter, please use the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

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Monday, August 26, 2013

The Social Media Spiral

Oh look, a shot of me on vacation checking my phone!
My name is Renee and I am a social media junkie. In this day and age, it's hard not to be. I am attracted to social media sites for a number of reasons. One, I work from home, and there are times I just need to interact with another human being and chatting with someone via Facebook and Twitter is about the closest I can get to a water cooler. I also use social media sites for book and article research and to promote the latest issue of the magazine I edit or announce a giveaway on this blog.

I've been on Facebook forever but resisted LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter for the longest time. But over the past few years, I've reluctantly signed up, mostly because I know if I ever want to become a published novelist, I'll need to expand my professional network and those sites are the quickest ways I can do that.

But I will admit that these sites sometimes send me plummeting into moments of envy and self-pity, and I hate feeling that way. I came across an interesting post on Facebook the other day (of course, I get all my important news from social media sites!) and it really resonated with me.  The post was shared from the Proverbs 31 Ministries, but I think regardless of your faith, there is something we can all take away from the root of the message:

It can be so easy to roam social media sites for hours, comparing our lives to others. While there are some really neat and helpful ideas/recipes/tips for sure . . . sometimes envy, feelings of failure and dejection set in.

I am guilty of this. Scrolling through Pinterest I start to feel ashamed that my kitchen is in dire need of updating, my bedroom isn't picture perfect and I'll never be able to decorate the perfect birthday cake for my kids. Looking at my news feed on Facebook I wonder if I'll ever be able to travel to some of the tropical destinations my friends are visiting and Twitter sends me into a spiral of depression because I'm not working hard enough to publish a book.

I'm glad I came across the Proverbs 31 Ministries message, even if I did have to do it via social media. Every couple of months I take a break from social media sites and give myself a breather. I concentrate on my work projects and spend much needed time with my family. In fact, my husband and I have a trip planned next month and the place we are staying is in the mountains and has no wi-fi. He's thrilled, and I'm glad I'll be forced to spend time breathing the fresh air and not checking my iPhone. If you're feeling overwhelmed by social media, I recommend you do the same!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Are You Invested in Your Writing Career?

"I saw the
dollar signs, man" at Santa Monica

If someone had asked me this about four years ago, I would have said "Of course I am!" But I really would have been lying with that response. Yes, I was invested to some extent, in my writing career. I was pitching articles frequently, networking with other writers and taking on contract jobs that helped me gain more experience. And I was taking the leap and beginning to write fiction.

You know that old saying "you have to spend money to make money?" There is a lot of truth to it, especially if you are trying to make money as a writer. The conundrum is that most writers starting out don't have a whole lot of money to invest--often they've left salaried positions to pursue their writing dreams and have a hard time justifying any outside expenses. I used to be the same way.

You have to find a happy medium, though. This time last year I considered investing in a pricey online MFA program because I thought it might help my career in the future. Eventually, I decided that option wasn't right for me and researched other ways I could learn and grow as a writer without breaking the bank. In the past year, I paid the membership dues and joined a professional organization I've been eyeing for a few years, signed up for two writing conferences and took an online children's writing course so I could get feedback on a young adult novel I've been working on. I just sent another manuscript I've been working on to a professional editor so I can get a better idea of where I need to expand the book.

Do I have a lot of extra money to do this? No, not really. I have contract work that helps me pay the bills but I'm still stretched tight. I've been using money from one of my side writing/public relations gigs to help me pay for these extra expenses and I consider that money well spent. I no longer feel like I'm writing in a vacuum and am becoming more comfortable in sharing my work with others. I've also met so many great colleagues along the way! I'm confident that these are necessary steps to take on my path to becoming a published novelist.

I'm curious to know how you've invested in your career and if it has paid off yet. Please share!

Photo credit: Rohan Travellin via Flickr.com

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wintergirls Hits Home

"Dead girl walking," the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret," the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

The YA book Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson has been recommended to me by friends, but I kept putting it off reading because I knew the subject matter a little too well and quite frankly, I was scared. I finally got a hold of a copy last week and spent two days immersed in the world of anorexia, hoping the main character Lia would be able to pull herself from the tight grasp of the illness in time.

Girls are a fickle bunch. I know this personally. It doesn't get any easier the older you get. Anderson's tale of Lia and Cassie illustrates this well. The two girls were childhood friends, but they also fed off each other's insecurities, secretly competing with the help of anorexia and bulimia until Cassie's body couldn't hold out any longer.

The imagery in this book will haunt you. You will find yourself wondering if the things Lia describes are real or the result of Lia's starvation:

Gray faces crowd the red leaves. The ghosts want to taste me. Their hands snake out, fingers open wide. I walk quickly, moving out of the reach of their sticky shadows. As I pass under a streetlight, the bulb pops and I smell burnt sugar. Her.

Fortunately for me, I never got to that point. Today, I have a healthy relationship with food and exercise, and I'm committed to making sure my daughter does too, especially as she gets older. I don't remember much about the lowest number on the scale, except that it was about 85 or 90 pounds at the age of 19. It could have been so much worse. I'm lucky I had people who cared about me and made sure I knew I was loved. I'm lucky I made the decision not to shut everyone out and keep starving, as much as I wanted to.

One thing I've learned is this. It's difficult, impossible almost, to recover from an eating disorder until you are ready. For me, I had to ultimately make the decision that I wanted to live, even if it meant feeling pain, as Lia describes:

I breathe in slowly. Food is life. I exhale, take another breath. Food is life. And that's the problem. When you're alive, people can hurt you. It's easier to crawl into a bone cage or a snowdrift of confusion. It's easier to lock everybody out. But it's a lie.

I hope one day I can write a compelling story that tackles an issue as important as this one. Don't we all?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Guest Post and Giveaway from Eric Trant, Author of Wink

Today I am excited to welcome Eric Trant, author of the new thriller, Wink (#WINK). Eric has written a great post for us titled "Author Intrusion: Good or Bad?" Check it out below and see how you can win your own copy of Wink!

Author Bio:

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories, including "Apple Tree" and "One Small Step," and the novels Out of the Great Black Nothingand Wink.

Eric is an advocate for organ donation and lost his 18-month-old-son in May of 2012. Eric and his wife courageously donated their son’s heart, kidneys, and liver. The couple went on to begin a foundation to support organ donor families. Eric speaks openly about this emotional journey on his blog and the topic of organ donation is very close to his heart.

Find out more about the author by visiting him online:

Author website: www.EricTrant.com

Author blog: http://diggingwiththeworms.blogspot.com/

Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/eric.trant.9

Book Summary:
A moving, fast-paced and incredibly emotional story about love, friendship and transformation.

In this thriller set in a rural Gulf Coast town, Marty Jameson finds refuge in the attic from his mother's abusive rages. But only during the day. At night the attic holds terrors even beyond what he witnesses in his home. With a family made up of a psychotic mother, a drug-dealing father and a comatose older brother withering away in the spare bedroom, Marty feels trapped.

Next door, wheel-chair bound Sadie Marsh obsessively watches Marty's comings and goings from her bedroom window, despite her mother's warning about the evil in that house. Evil which appears to Sadie as huge black-winged creatures.

Marty, emotionally torn by the violence and dysfunction in his family, is drawn to Sadie and her kindly mother. But if he is to save his new friend from the supernatural horror threatening them all, Marty must transform himself from victim to hero. And to do so, he must first confront what lurks hidden in the shadows of his attic.

Wink is a thriller that captivates readers and leaves them longing for more. Trant is a talented author whose character descriptions go far beyond the physical.

Paperback: 275 pages

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (May 7, 2013)

ISBN: 193717834X

ISBN-13: 978-1937178345


Twitter hashtag: #WINK

Wink is available as a print and e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Guest Post:
First off, what the heck is Author Intrusion, and why is it capitalized? I'm not sure why I capitalized it, and there isn't a good and hearty and reliable definition that I've found. As readers and authors we all have our ideas of what Author Intrusion is and what it ain't. Whatever definition, AI occurs when theauthor interrupts the reader, or tosses them. I prefer the term tossing the reader, because that is what I do when an author tosses me -- I toss their book across the room (or the more modern term, 'Remove from Device').

Now, the thing that tosses you that tosses the book that launches it across the room is AuthorIntrusion. For each of us that ignition signal which initiates the countdown begins with something different. I recall a series of books that I loved -- LOVED -- until the author fell in love with the heroine. The hero was a strong and strapping man in the first few books, and the heroine was not at all weak, but she was balanced with him and they were this great Luke and Leia pair of parallel heroes, each bringing to the story an aspect of manhood and womanhood respectively. Then about the third or fourth book he fell in love with the heroine. He doted on her with extra words, extra scenes, went on and on about how pretty she was, and my brother and I discussed it and realized he was in love with the heroine! He weakened the hero out of what we decided was jealousy to the point of him becoming an almost pathetic and bumbling nuisance.

I launched that last book (paperback, see) and have not picked up something since from unsaidauthor. He betrayed me. He intruded on ~my~ story.

So don't do that. Keep a professional distance between you and your characters and let them be who they will be, love die live and hate. Let them be! Do not intrude! Bad author!

I know, that's one example, falling in love with your characters, and here is another common one. Don't get too political. If your character has a set of beliefs, let them believe what they will. Do not make them into a pathetic and bumbling nuisance just because you do not share their beliefs. Be true to them and they will be true to the reader. If you want to become a pundit for a particular party or religion, go ahead, but remember you will alienate half your readers, enrage the other half, and the ones who are left will be people you do not want to meet in the dark back corners of your local library book signing.

Aside from falling in love with and imposing your beliefs on your characters, another thing authorsintrude upon is the action with long diatribes, soliloquies, and philosophical discussions. Now on this point I have a mixed opinion. Executed properly, you ~can~ intrude successfully here. Yes, sayeth I, GoodAuthor!

A fine example of Author Intrusion successfully delivered is just about any Heinlein book you read, or Hemingway, or McCarthy. If you want a modern example, watch a Tarantino movie, or read Life of Pi and The Art of Racing in the Rain. These writers pause the action for lengthy philosophical discussions between characters that often have no bearing on anything in the story other than the author wants to express to the reader a particular set of beliefs, or relate a funny or interesting side-story. This is AuthorIntrusion, and if written properly it can draw the reader deeper into the story almost as if the characters popped out of the book (or movie) and sat beside you and looked you in the eye and said, Heya Buddy, let me tell you a story.

As an author, you need to understand when your little voice is intruding into the story, and either rein it in or cut it loose and let it roam. It is a powerful tool when properly employed. Note my positive examples are from wildly successful authors with a penchant for the literary aspect of writing. When it is improperly used, though, it is a tool of destruction that will only alienate your readers. All in all it should be used with conscious caution, because a little whisper in the reader's ear from the author's tongue can have that lingering effect we all want as authors, which is that question: When is the next book coming out!? And whose tongue is in my ear?

What about you? Can you think of examples of Author Intrusion, or why it should be capitalized? Do you think it is something to employ, or avoid at all costs?

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