I must write about how much I enjoyed D. G Kaye’s memoir ‘Conflicted Hearts’.The troublesome relationship that the author has with her mother mirrors episodes in my own life, and I can empathise regarding feelings that ensue from the author wanting to stay away from the negativity of her mother’s narcissistic ways and try to carry on with her own life, but at the same time suffering an overwhelming guilt at staying away for long periods of time.
D.G Kaye is a strong-minded woman and a fearless lone traveller, who is always trying to please her mother.However, I have found, as the author has, that some people just cannot be pleased no matter what is done to help them.Sometimes it’s a case of standing back, taking a deep breath, and either walking away or growing a thick skin.
I admire the author’s courage in writing this memoir.Being an only child I was never brave enough to walk away and so I had to grow the thick skin, but it was only in my mother’s last years that we actually became closer.Through major illness and stress D.G Kaye tried to do what was best for her mother and herself, and I applaud her for it. But at the end of the day it is only by actually living true to ourselves that we can really be happy.
I honestly don’t think it gets much better than this. Hannah’s Moon is the fifth book of John Heldt’s American Journey series. I’ve read two other books in the series (Indiana Belle and Class of ’69) and thoroughly enjoyed each. However, if I were to give the prize ribbon to a story-line, Hannah’s Moon would win by a mile.
It tells the story of a young couple in 2017 who wants nothing more than to have a baby. They’ve spent years trying and failing and finally began considering adoption. They soon learn of a way where they can legally adopt a healthy child in a shorter amount of time, but the catch is they have to do it in 1945. After meeting the child of their dreams, their bliss is deferred when they must overcome life-changing obstacles.
I caught a few typos along the way and also found myself overanalyzing the plot (though I did love the idea of it) by wondering about adopting a child born more than seventy years ago and the consequences of such an action. But I found myself drawn into the story within a few pages, having to force myself to set it down and get some sleep.
This has everything: love, friendship, pain, happiness…toward the ending, several moments pulled at my heartstrings and tears began to form from the corners of my eyes. After wanting to hurry and find out what happens next, I finished Hannah’s Moon and was sad to see that I had no more left to read.
I could tell Mr. Heldt did his research. I felt as though I was a fly on the characters’ walls, watching as they fought to come out on top.
If you’re in the mood for light romance and/or time travel where anything can happen–or you’re simply after a good book, then I highly recommend Hannah’s Moon.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
John A. Heldt is the author of the critically acclaimed Northwest Passage and American Journey series. The former reference librarian and award-winning sportswriter has loved getting subjects and verbs to agree since writing book reports on baseball heroes in grade school. A graduate of the University of Oregon and the University of Iowa, Heldt is an avid fisherman, sports fan, home brewer, and reader of thrillers and historical fiction. When not sending contemporary characters to the not-so-distant past, he weighs in on literature and life at johnheldt.blogspot.com.
When you load your book up to Amazon you will get to choose whether or not to enable Digital Rights Management.
It is important to note here that this particular choice cannot be undone. Short of unpublishing and republishing this cannot be changed. Once you have some nice reviews and lots of sales on any particular book unpublishing it is not a great idea, so give some thought to this before setting it in stone. So, what is DRM?
Amazon says that Digital Rights Management “is intended to inhibit unauthorized access to or copying of digital content files”. While this sounds great in terms of combating piracy, in reality it’s about as effective in this regard as a straw hut would be at keeping you dry in a hurricane. My African Me & Satellite TV was published with DRM enabled and it is my most pirated book. Stripping DRM is the work of minutes with appropriate easy to obtain software and a penchant for theft. In all honesty DRM is more of a headache and deterrent to potential readers. While a DRM enabled book can be read on any Kindle device or on the Kindle App when loaded on to any reading device, it can’t be opened without it (crooked software notwithstanding). If you also publish with a distributor such as Smashwords DRM becomes irrelevant anyway as far as protection against piracy is concerned because they supply every form of digital copy of your book to anyone who purchases a copy of it.
With certain eBooks authors encourage the printing of them, such as for workbooks or colouring books, and supply links away from the book to download PDF copies for this purpose. On your copyright page you will state what is not allowed to happen with copies of your eBook purchased, but regardless of that it is very easy to convert any non-DRM book to PDF form and print it out for whatever your reader chooses to do with it. Most readers are unaware of this, so if you want to encourage this for any particular reason (for workbooks and so on) it’s a good idea to have instructions in your book. The main reason for not enabling DRM though is to ensure that any potential readers who have reading habits that do not include any form of Kindle are not put off from buying it. Odd as it sounds, there are quite a few people who do not have Kindle devices or apps, and don’t like reading on their computers, who still enjoy Amazon’s competitive pricing and book promotions.
When purchasing eBooks it’s fairly easy to see whether or not DRM is enabled. Have a look at the Product Details on the book’s landing page. If you see Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited there the book is DRM free, and if you don’t it isn’t.
If you want to check whether or not your already purchased books are DRM free, either for reading on a non-Kindle device or for printing purposes, you can use your Calibre eBook Viewer. If you don’t already have Calibre download it for free. It’s a must have tool for Indie publishers anyway as we’ve mentioned before.
Open Calibre and click on View.
Click on Open Book and then go to My Kindle Content in your Documents folder.
The books there are listed in alphabetical order by Amazon ASIN number. Search for and select the book’s ASIN (also to be found under Product Details on the landing page). The book will open if DRM free and you can either read it or convert it to PDF for printing.
If DRM is enabled it will be locked and you will only be able to open it on a Kindle device or with the app.
It’s a good idea to remember that most readers simply want to read the books that they buy. Some of them have fixed likes or dislikes that don’t always make sense to everyone. Some people refuse to read anything other than paper books, and we all have our favourite reading devices. I like to read most non-fiction on the Kindle app on my computer, especially any book with pictures, diagrams or recipes. Fiction I prefer to read on my actual Kindle, and generally in bed with a nice cup of chocolate or glass of wine. I have used this method to print worksheets out from workbooks where there was no link to exterior PDF copies. There is no point to workbooks published as eBooks without this option as far as I’m concerned, even though I have bought some without thinking where this is not an option as DRM is enabled. Needless to say those workbooks have gone mostly unread and unused, and their authors most definitely on my list of never to buy from again.
DRM is very, very weak protection against piracy, and I think not really a good option for any Indie publisher.
I’m sorry this review doesn’t follow the usual format, but I ‘ve shared it on my own blog and thought many of the authors reading this blog might find it interesting.
Although I read more fiction than non-fiction, there are more and more non-fiction books finding their way to my to be read pile, and I’ve read a few that I want to share too. So to bring more variety to the reviews, here comes one I read recently that might be particularly interesting to writers, but I believe many people will find interesting and inspiring, no matter what their call on life.
The Way of the Writer. Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling by Charles Johnson
From Charles Johnson—a National Book Award winner, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and one of America’s preeminent scholars on literature and race—comes an instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.
An award-winning novelist, philosopher, essayist, screenwriter, professor, and cartoonist, Charles Johnson has devoted his life to creative pursuit. His 1990 National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage is a modern classic, revered as much for its daring plot as its philosophical underpinnings. For thirty-three years, Johnson taught and mentored students in the art and craft of creative writing. The Way of the Writer is his record of those years, and the coda to a kaleidoscopic, boundary-shattering career.
Organized into six accessible, easy-to-navigate sections, The Way of the Writer is both a literary reflection on the creative impulse and a utilitarian guide to the writing process. Johnson shares his lessons and exercises from the classroom, starting with word choice, sentence structure, and narrative voice, and delving into the mechanics of scene, dialogue, plot and storytelling before exploring the larger questions at stake for the serious writer. What separates literature from industrial fiction? What lies at the heart of the creative impulse? How does one navigate the literary world? And how are philosophy and fiction concomitant?
Luminous, inspiring, and imminently accessible, The Way of the Writer is a revelatory glimpse into the mind of the writer, and an essential guide for anyone with a story to tell.
“Charles Johnson has given us a book that will hopefully place a gentle but firm hand on the shoulder of every writer. Here are short essays offering advice, writing life insight and encouragement to anyone wishing to master the art of storytelling. Johnson’s book is a reminder that good writing consists of more than sleeping with the dictionary. It requires a major commitment to the love of language.”– E. Ethelbert Miller, award-winning poet and 2016 recipient of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature
“Charles Johnson here provides—as his subtitle promises—’reflections on the art and craft of storytelling.’ It’s a welcome addition to the small shelf of useful books on the way of the writer and one that belongs with those of his mentor, John Gardner. Here the writer links the personal with the professional in ways that both inspire and instruct. Use this book (a) to deepen your familiarity with the work of a distinguished author, (b) to understand how serious practitioners address their art and (c) to improve your own.”–Nicholas Delbanco, author ofThe Years
“Those of us who put pen to paper for a living have known of Charles Johnson for a very long time. He is one of America’s greatest literary treasures. He is a skilled wordsmith, superb craftsman, master of understatement, philosopher, cartoonist, and deeply talented novelist whose 1991 novel Middle Passage, (which won the National Book Award for fiction) predates the current surfeit of Underground Railroad novels by a good two decades. Like the great Ralph Ellison to whom he is often compared, he will forever cast a long shadow over us who follow in his wake. Here he graciously opens up the treasure chest of writing secrets and philosophy for those of us who seek to kneel at the tree of learning, told by a man who has kissed the black stone of literary excellence.”—James McBride, National Book Award-winning author ofThe Good Lord BirdandThe Color of Water
“If you’re looking to learn to tell stories in written form, look no further. This book is as accessible as it is profound, lively, practical, and full of earned wisdom. I was a student of Charles Johnson’s, and can vouch for the power and value of his teaching. There are plenty of craft books available out there, but this is the only one I know of that is–and I don’t think I’m exaggerating–indispensable.”–David Guterson, author ofSnow Falling on Cedars
“This is a book for many readers. If you are an aspiring writer, the path that Dr. Johnson sets out is a clear guide to your destination—whether you become a best-selling novelist or a top non-fiction writer or not. You will find a compass in this book that will direct you towards a real way that will fulfill your efforts. There is much practical advice and worldview wisdom here that will sustain you in your journey. Those who are on a different path (as readers) will also find fulfillment here. Dr. Johnson sets out original and illuminating guides on how to confront literary fiction—especially philosophical fiction. These reflections advance critical theory toward literature that is, itself, philosophy. This is a must-buy for both of these travelers. The destination will more than reward the price of the ticket.”–Michael Boylan, Professor of Philosophy, Marymount University and author ofNaked Reverse: A Novel
“An honest, engaging, and wonderfully inspiring book for both writers and teachers. Charles Johnson’s deep intelligence, joyful rigor and refreshing iconoclasm are evident in every subject he covers here. Philosophical and practical, The Way of the Writer is sure to become a classic in the mold of John Gardner’s excellent books on writing.”–Dana Spiotta, author ofInnocents and Others
“A meditation on the meaning of literature and practical guide to the art and craft of writing fiction.”–Library Journal
“Charles Johnson has a long-standing reputation as one of the world’s greatest fiction writers. Now in this brilliant new book, The Way of the Writer, he offers us an eclectic meditation on the storyteller’s craft that is by turns memoir, instructional guide, literary critique, and philosophical treatise. Every reader will be deeply enriched by the book.”—Jeffery Renard Allen, author ofSong of the ShankandRails Under My Back
“All writers will welcome the useful tips and exercises, but the book will also appeal to readers interested in literature and the creative process. Johnson’s wonderful prose will engage readers to think more deeply about how to tell a story and consider the truth-telling power of the arts.”-–Library JournalSTARRED review
“Throughout, Johnson’s voice is generous and warm, even while he is cautioning writers to be their own ruthless editors. A useful writing guide from an experienced practitioner.”—Kirkus Reviews
“National Book Award winner Johnson (Middle Passage, 1990) has taught creative writing for over 30 years and now shares his well-refined thoughts on how best to develop literary taste and technique…. Every aspect of this writing manual, which is laced with memoir, illustrates Johnson’s seriousness of purpose about literature and his laser focus on the thousands of small choices that shape a written work. The result is a book that will be appreciated by aspiring writers and everyone who shares Johnson’s delight in the power of words.”–Booklist
“A meditation on the daily routines and mental habits of a writer…the book radiates warmth…a writer’s true education might start in institutions, it seems, but for Johnson it is more a lineage of good, memorable talk.”–New York Times
“Eloquent, inspiring and wise, The Way of the Writer is a testament to the methods and advice the author espouses, and even if you aren’t an aspiring novelist, Johnson’s book is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of our finest writers.”–Seattle Times
“Writers who haven’t had the opportunity to study with Dr. Charles Johnson during the past 40 years are now in luck. The novelist, essayist, cartoonist, and philosopher has collected the creative lessons he’s learned along the way in a new practical and semi-autobiographical guide.”–Tricycle
“An instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.”–Chicago Review of Books
About the Author
Charles Johnson is a novelist, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, cartoonist, screenwriter, and professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. His fiction includes Dr. King’s Refrigerator, Dreamer, Faith and the Good Thing, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.
My review: Unique reflections based on a lifetime of thinking and writing well.
Thanks to Net Galley and Scribner for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review.
This non-fiction book is not a ‘how to’ book and won’t give the reader a formula for producing, and even less, selling, books by the bucket load. The subtitle, Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling describes much more precisely what the book is. And if there’s one thing we can’t accuse Charles Johnson of, is of lacking precision.
The book is structured in six parts (1. Who Is the Writer?, 2. The Process of Writing, 3. What Helps the Writer, 4. The Writer as Teacher, 5. The Writing Life and Duties of the Writer, 6. Philosophy and the Writer), each one collecting some of his essays on topics related to the craft of writing, that are very numerous. The parts, and each essay, can be read separately, although if read as a book there are reflections and quotes that will become familiar, and anecdotes and thoughts that appear more than once (not a big problem if readers dip in and out, or read it over an extended period and go back to revisit the parts they find more relevant or inspiring). Due to the nature of the materials, some of the content overlaps, particularly as this is a deeply personal book, based on Charles Johnson’s experiences, and he talks about his personal writing schedule, his interest in martial arts, how he started his career as a journalist, his love of drawing and design, his Buddhist beliefs, his interest in Philosophy…
The author taught an undergraduate and a postgraduate writing course for many years, although he has been retired for a while, and he describes his ‘boot camp for writers’ that he strongly based on John Gardner’s (that he describes as his writing mentor) programme. Johnson talks about the readings he recommends, the hard schedule of writing he requires, how he focuses on technique, how he advises writers to read a dictionary from cover to cover… So, there are exercises one could do independently and advice one can follow, but mostly the book is a reflection on his career, as a writer, philosopher, teacher and reviewer. From a personal point of view, I especially enjoyed his essay on reviews because it spoke to me and to my thoughts on what a review should be like, and the importance of telling people what they might find and like in the book, above and beyond your personal taste and opinion in the matter.
In some of his essays, he uses his own books as examples of some of the points he makes (character building, voice, point of view, among others), understandably, as he can discuss his intentions and how they relate to the technique he used, rather than assume what other authors were trying to do. This creates two issues. I’ve read some comments that would indicate he might come across as self-aggrandizing, arrogant and full of himself, although reading the rest of the articles makes quite clear that that is far from the truth. The other issue is that the comparisons and examples might not be as clear for readers who are not familiar with his work (although he does mention other writers often). I must admit that living in the UK, although I studied American Literature years back, I am not familiar with his work, and checking Amazon.co.uk, this is the only one of his books I could easily find. Even in Amazon.com most of his books are only available in paperback or hardback. But many of his comments about drafts, editing, working as a journalist, and his compelling defence of storytelling and the importance of finding a story that captures the reader’s (and of course, first the writer’s) imagination can be enjoyed and savoured without direct knowledge of Johnson’s fiction.
The author is an exacting and hardworking writer and thinker and he expresses strong opinions about what literature should be like. His is the world of literary fiction, and literature and stories used to explore and explain philosophical insights, of traditional publishing and paper books. He does mention pork literature or industrial literature and acknowledges that some writers make a living by writing genre fiction (although he does not mention it by name or discusses it in any details) but that is not what he’s interested in. I could not help but think about the self-publishing movement and the writers who embrace it, who will also find much to enjoy in the book but, like many other writers will feel very differently about some of the topics. Charles Johnson mentions a couple of times that he did not himself study a degree in creative writing (his method is more like an apprenticeship, and it reminded me of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and his account of his self-education and dedication to learning, although with a very different goal in mind) and says that those degrees do not exist in Europe (they do, so I’m not sure all the essays are up-to-date). He acknowledges changes in standards and interests in the student body, and how he’s had to adapt his reading list to such changes so they remain relevant.
The author uses wonderful quotes from great writers and philosophers to illustrate his thoughts and make some points. I had to stop highlighting the text as there was hardly anything left without colour on the page, and this is one of those books eminently quotable and that will keep readers going back for second helpings.
This collection of writings by Charles Johnson is likely to make anybody interested in books and writing think and reflect. Some of the advice might be easier to apply than other, depending on the style of writing and the intentions of those reading it, but many of his reflections and thoughts will resonate and inspire most of us, and who would dispute the importance of storytelling?
Thanks to Net Galley and to Scribner for offering me a copy of the book and thanks to Charles Johnson for sharing his career with us, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you feel so inclined, like, share, comment and CLICK.
A few hundred people wake up in an auditorium with no memory of their past, scared and confused, struggling to remember who they are and how they got here. A voice draws their attention to the person standing on the podium, impeccably dressed, an air of calm confidence about him that suggests he has the answers to all their questions. As he starts explaining the situation, they slowly begin to realize they are in a futuristic realm called Enigma, where dead humans are reborn and brought to trials for the crimes they committed in their human-lives…
I have to say good going on this one. I honestly don’t know where to begin. This will be a short review because I can’t really say much about the story…I’d hate to give it away. The characters are basically living in purgatory—a city called Enigma. When the humans die, they’re reborn, so to speak, to be tried for the crimes they committed in their human life.
Halfway was absolutely nothing like I expected. But, then again, I wasn’t exactly sure what I expected. It did take a little bit for me to get into at first, but I soon found myself drawn deep into the story. The characters were three-dimensional, the plot first-rate. I found the idea of the storyline quite intriguing and original.
I recommend this book.
Overall rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lokesh Sharma grew up reading books and watching movies—a little too much for his parents’ taste. He spent his childhood in a small town about 150 Kms from New Delhi. Having finished his studies, he moved to The Heart of India in 2010, where he worked for a reputed American-based Bank for about three years, until he came up with the idea for his debut novel and decided to put it into words. Aside from lots of reading and a little bit of writing, he likes travelling, shopping, and listening to music.
Should we be thinking about money when we write? This is one of those questions that scribblers like to ponder, and occasionally have heated debates about. Are we writing for the love of writing, or to earn a living? Certainly not everyone who writes fiction is going to be able to live off the proceeds. If that was the case the whole world would be reclining under an oak, holding forth to their readers and sipping absinthe. No. There is a small percentage of the planet’s population who can be considered career writers of stories, who have their scribbles pay for their homes and vittles without them having to go without. The rest depend on various things. Luck and being visible in the right place at the right time are pretty massive factors in whether or not some really genius and gifted writers ever get their amazing books read by more than their aunty and the barman. So, apart from money, what do we want to do with our writing? I mean, REALLY apart from money. I am quite serious about wanting to leave a little legacy behind. I hope to leave a scribble or two that will help, inspire, or just bring a smile to the dial of some future reader when this old bod has turned to dust and I’m swanning around with angels and Pratchetts on clouds. What scribbles would you like to leave behind that would make your future discorporeal self proud? Do you even want anyone to have access to your books when you’re gone?
We all leave footprints behind after departing this mortal coil, regardless of what we do for a living, for fun, or for no reason at all. Most people leave behind a Will with instructions as to how whatever bits we leave behind is to be divided up, and with a bit of luck during our life we have the foresight to ensure that if we were to suddenly expire, there would not be anything overly disturbing for our nearest and dearest to discover. So, apart from occasionally cleaning out our drawers and upgrading our undies, as published Indie authors we should consider the legacy we want to leave behind as well as how the spoils will be divided. I’m not going to go into the legal nitty gritty here. I suggest that you read up on it from the experts. What I do suggest though, is a little bit of thought about your actual written legacy. Your published books, blog articles, every little old thing you’ve ever posted online will hang around somewhere after you’ve moved on to that forever-after fabulous literary drinks festival waiting for you in the sky.
Writing is generally a solitary pursuit, and often some of those who are drawn to writing are solitary in every possible way. No known next of kin, or perhaps none that they particularly want to be known to. Few friends, or none in “real life”. What happens to those scribbler’s books when they die without a will? When nobody knows that they are indeed dead? When they peer over their bottomless Bellini from fluffy clouds up above, will they be happy with the way they’ve left their tales for posterity? If you don’t have any family or friends to leave your work to, even if your royalty payments never break two figure monthly payouts, should you just leave your books to fade gradually into the deepest bowels of Amazon, to be lost and finally forgotten, only ever to be seen again by accident?
That is of course entirely up to you. What I suggest is at least leaving a trail behind. Who knows, even though you won’t be physically able to participate, you might enjoy the belated readership in the spirit, so to speak. Get yourself a book. Write down user names and passwords to all of your online publishing platforms. While you’re at it, write down the same for all your social networking sites. Write down your wishes for your published books. Do you want them to be unpublished when you die? Do you want their copyrights to be given to a person or an institution? Find out where to leave these things and make it easy for whoever is left behind, rather than have them scratching their heads, or worse, giving up at the first weird form letter they get in response to their query about accessing your publishing platform.
So while I’m not going into the legal bits here, they are pretty easy to find out about online, I am encouraging all of you to consider what you’d like to leave behind. Forget about making a dollar for a moment, and consider what bits of “you” you’d like to stay here. Inspiration, instruction, laughter, excitement, all of these things are worthwhile contributions to humankind. Your books will lurk in Kindles long after you’ve zoomed on to your mansion in the sky, so while money is rather nice to have while you’re here, love floating up through the ether is probably a nicer thing to invest in for all eternity. Tweak bits. Insert bits. Forget about the rent and write for the love of writing. And while you’re at it, leave something wonderful behind, and finally remember to make sure it’s not too difficult to stumble upon.
Sorry I haven’t been around much recently, but today I bring you a review and the author, Tony Rauch, has also agreed to answer a few questions, so we have a double feature, a review and a mini-interview.
Title: what if I got down on my knees Author: Tony Rauch ISBN: 098293355X
what if i got down on my knees? presents romantic misadventures and entanglements of absurd, whimsical, existential longing, featuring discovery, secrets, identity, escape, strange happenings, endurance, regret, and hope. The stories are little postcards from the lonely regions of the human heart.
These tales of wonder are about people trying to find meaning and a place in an indifferent world, and their discoveries, revelations, secrets, failures, struggles, connections, and odd encounters along the way—
—two unemployed men steal dogs and run them through buildings around town.
—a man goes on what turns into the worst date in recorded history.
—you are asked to baby-sit for a neighbor, only to find a giant baby waiting for you.
—a man comes home to find his entire yard and home paved over by a long lost rival.
—a clerk at a used record store finds a man has passed away on one of the couches.
—some young adults go into the basement to get sad, in order to impress girls.
—a stranger extracts a baby from a man waiting for the bus.
With themes of longing, fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, regret, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, discovery, ennui, loneliness, irresponsible behavior, confusion, change, identity, and absurd situations, Tony Rauch is a worthy successor to the artistry and absurdism of Donald Barthelme and Steve Martin.
Body of review:
I received a copy of this novel from the author and I voluntarily review it for Lit World Interviews.
Short stories are an acquired taste. We might think a short read is perfect because we are always rushing and don’t have a lot of time, but sometimes we might feel disappointed when the story ends and we’ve invested time and, in the best of cases, emotions only to have to get to know some new characters after a few pages. Of course, not all short stories are born equal. And this collection of short stories by Tony Rauch proves the point.
Some of the short stories in this collection are whimsical (surreal) and might leave you scratching your head (or looking up to the sky searching for… No spoilers) , some are vignettes illustrating the lives of people who might appear content with their lives at a superficial level, but whose thoughts and worries run deeper than it seems, many are about lonely people wondering about others and trying to connect (in some occasions with hilarious consequences), some are about pretending to be something or somebody else, about growing up, about growing old, about moving on or remembering the past…
The quality of the writing is superb, and the first person narratives cleverly capture the speech and rhythms of the characters, who sometimes are talking to others, sometimes conducting an internal monologue with themselves, or even writing a story. From young kids trying to impress their friends to old men dying, from people contemplating a new relationship to others letting go, these few pages run the whole gamut of experiences and emotions.
To give you some examples:
His skin appeared two sizes too tight for his body, stiff and washed out, like he’d gotten it secondhand, or found it in an alley late at night.
His suit is mythical—straight, lean, long, pure, giving, musical, thoughtful, caring, dynamic, cosmopolitan, unselfish, strong, industrious, and nostalgic for his mother, her peanut butter cookies, and snowy Christmas mornings.
“And what would someone do with a dream of mine? Where would you keep it?”
“I’d stretch it out to create a sail, and then use it to float off to who knows where,” I advise.
Some of the stories are nostalgic and melancholy, but there are great comedic moments, ranging from slapstick to joyful turns of phrase (and oh, a so very satisfying revenge story). Another example I highlighted:
Eventually, he turned up in over 3000 cans of a popular brand of tuna. A horrible fate to be sure, and amplified by the fact that the guy was notoriously reputed to detest tuna.
I won’t tell you which stories I liked the most as I’d find it difficult. I checked the reviews, and on reading the comments when the reviewers mentioned a story or another I’d agree with them. So… Just go and read them and enjoy their variety.
What the book is about: Many things: growing up, life, dreams, realities, loneliness, relationships, friendship, revenge, writing…
Book Highlights: The quality of the writing and the very distinct characters and voices. The whimsical sense of humour.
Challenges of the book: Sometimes with the electronic version I wasn’t clear when I had moved from one story to another. The titles of the individual stories and the different parts weren’t always easy to tell apart.
Although the book is not long, I think it is best taken slowly and savouring the quality of the writing, rather than rushing to get to the end of the story. It is not a book to be read in a hurry.
What do you get from it: Beautiful writing, stories that make you think and a few laughs.
What I would have changed if anything: As I mentioned perhaps change the size of the titles or the formatting (in the digital version) to make the divisions clearer.
Who Would I recommend this book to?: To readers who enjoy language and a mood more than heavily plotted stories (although there are some great ones too). And to writers who are considering writing short stories, or just keen on exploring the many ways characterization works.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5 Made Me Think: 4/5 Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5 Readability: 4/5 Recommended: 5/5 Overall Rating: 4.5/5
People have less and less time these days and short forms of writing are becoming more and more popular. From flash-fiction to microfiction and even stories told in Tweets, it’s all about brevity. Of course, the short story has a long tradition, but what is for you a short story? And what makes it (so far) your preferred choice when writing? –
For me a short story is anything that conveys a feeling, or an event, or that sets up an event that may then spring forward. It does not have to have a beginning or an ending. I like story starters, that is a written piece that poses a situation or premise, and then you have to imagine various outcomes. But the premise is so interesting it creates that zing in your brain and gets you thinking. That to me is a good story: anything that kick-starts that zing in your imagination and gets you thinking on a different track or about various possibilities.
I prefer the short form because I don’t need a lot of useless background info that longer work sometimes gets bogged down in. I don’t have a lot of free time, so the short form is good for getting ideas down. I have a lot of different ideas, so the short form works well in sorting them into more organized paradigms.
Who are your favourite writers, in general, and writers of short stories (if they aren’t the same ones)? Why? What have you learned from them? –
Favorite authors, influences:Anyone interesting, imaginative, and concise. Anyone who makes you think.
Mostly I like short stories as they get to the point quickly. The books that really inspired me are mostly imaginative story collections because they were exciting and new and you never knew what was going to happen next in them. Also, they were brief, which made them memorable and easily digestible.
I like strange or absurd adventures that are well crafted and have a meaning to them, and sci fi as it offers ideas. Reading these types of writers is like taking mini adventures that I could not experience otherwise in the limitations of my actual life –
Donald Barthelme, J.D. Salinger, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Charles Bukowski, Leonard Michaels (murderers), Mark Twain, James Thurber, Antoine de Saint Exupery (the little prince), Dr. Seuss (cool illustrations), Roald Dahl, Steve Martin (cruel shoes), W.P. Kinsella (the alligator report), Jim Heynen (the man who kept cigars in his cap), Don Delillo.
Barry Yourgrau, Mark Leyner, Adrienne Clasky (from the floodlands), Lydia Davis (Samuel Johnson is indignant), Etgar Keret, Stacey Richter, George Singleton, James Tate (Return to the city of white donkeys), Thom Jones, Italo Calvino, Stephen-Paul Martin, Will Self, Denis Johnson (Jesus’ son), David Gilbert (I shot the hairdresser), David Sedaris, Paul Di Filippo, D. Harlan Wilson, Andersen Prunty.
Science fiction from the 40s, 50s, and 60s:
Rod Serling, L. Sprague De Camp, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, Aurthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont, Ursula K. Le Guin, Douglas Adams (an 80’s writer), etc.
Many writers read this blog. I subscribe to the advice that one should read in order to improve one’s writing. I know it will be a difficult choice, but any stories in particular that have had an impact on you or have increased your understanding of the form?
Yes, many – see the list of authors above. One thing I look for is that buzz or zing when they convey a feeling or present something I hadn’t ever seen before. For example, I like that F. Scott Fitzgerald story “Winter dreams” because in it the character changes, or his feelings for someone changes. I like that arc, that sense of change the character goes through in a story. That story presents a loss, and the character’s feelings about that change and loss.
You can find book information and story samples on that bad boy of rock and roll.
If you know of any good publishers looking for arty story collections, please let them know about me. I’m always looking for good publishers. A lot of places don’t publish single author story collections.
Thank you for your time.
Thanks very much to Tony Rauch for his book and for answering my questions, thanks to you for reading, and don’t forget to like, share, comment, and CLICK!
We all have a past, and we know our parents had a life before us. But what if we come to realize that one of our parents had affiliations with the mob? That’s something hard to imagine, even if you are the daughter of Allen Smiley, a friend of the infamous Bugsy Siegel.
Luellen Smiley grew up in both admiration and fear of her father, Allen. He was an overly protective and a stern man with many, many secrets in his closet. She loved her father but didn’t know him. She feared her father but didn’t know the reason why. Ten years after the death of Allen Smiley, Luellen begins to unravel, feeling severe unease and anxiety about herself and her father until she finally breaks. While many would choose to try and ignore it and move on with their life, Luellen embarks on a quest to understand the reason for her pain. She takes to government surveillance records, newspaper articles, court testimony, classified FBI documents, interviews and conversations with relatives in order to learn all she could possibly know about her father and about her heritage.
I found some of the scenes to be very short and sometimes confusing, so I needed to reread. I could think of a few ways to rewrite it in order to make the tale flow more smoothly, but it’s possible Luellen had her reasoning, unbeknownst to me of why she kept the scenes so brief. The dialogue was engaging, and she’d obviously done her research in bringing the past back to life. She wrote the prose in a way that made you want to turn the next page and find out what happened next. Who was this guy, Allen Smiley? How could he manage to keep all these dark secrets?
My main issue is the reason the story is a four star and not a five (actually, I’d give 3.5 stars for this, but only full stars are allowed, and the story is too intriguing for a measly three). Throughout the prose, there were so many grammatical and punctuation errors as though it hadn’t been edited after written. If I didn’t care to learn about what it was like to be brought up unknowingly in a mobster world, I’d have set it down. However, that wasn’t the case. The story had me too intrigued and I wanted to meet the ending.
If you enjoy all types of gangster-related stories, particularly the true ones, I’d highly recommend Cradle of Crime.
Luellen Smiley was the daughter of Allen Smiley—Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend and business partner. Her upbringing within the Mafia family breaks through a long-standing stigma about the organization and its members. She wants the world to know that they started as defenders of their neighborhoods—not trigger-happy murderers.
Ten years after her father’s death, she evolved into a gangster authority through researching thousands of classified FBI and Department of Justice documents and interviews and conversations with relatives, ex–mob guys, and authors.
Luellen is an award-winning newspaper columnist who has written for publications such as the NY Post and MORE Magazine.
Captain Sharif’s police compound has been breached. Fifteen Americans murdered. CIA agent Frank Hutchinson has proof the cop is lying and has him in his crosshairs, eager to exact revenge. Captain Sharif must please his corrupt superiors; and yet see justice served, and abide by the Koran. He’s in hell, with no way to escape – either be buried alive or suffer Allah’s wrath. In the balance hangs the life of Eliza MacKay, witness to the massacre. He’s drawn to her courage and discovers her ‘take no shit’ personality warrants respect. Even so, her struggle with PTSD may get both of them killed. Desperate, Sharif initiates an act more forbidden and fatal.
One thing about Forbidden by F. Stone you need to know is that it’s set in the year 2047 and the Muslim countries in the Middle East with a few exceptions have formed into one large nation. I think of it like the old Soviet Union. Iraq is the center of power and that’s where this story takes place.
You quickly forget about the future setting because everything in the story is still very much present day except for the political setting, which doesn’t play a huge part in the story.
I really liked the book. There were definite elements that needed to be handled well, especially with CAPTAIN SHARIF’S faith. The author has obviously done her homework and that shows up primarily around how Sharif handles his interactions with ELIZA MACKAY.
But enough about that. This book is action from the beginning to end. A great who is doing what to whom. I’m pretty good at figuring things out but was surprised in the end about who was not involved in the murdering of the 15 Americans.
The writing is fast paced and I read it in a day because of not wanting to put it down. Throw in the romance elements and you have a well balanced story that gives you a chance to breathe between the action moments. The romance part isn’t overplayed and doesn’t detract from the story at all.
MacKay’s traumatic history and PTSD are used to great effect in the relationship between her and Sharif. Some of it is a little unexpected but overall I think it was exactly the way it should have been.
I recommend the book for thrill seekers and action junkies.
Microsoft Word is powerful software and generally the Indie author’s friend, but sometimes its intuitive automatic tweaking can cause headaches that can take days to get to the bottom of, and at other times lead to giving up on certain looks we want for our books altogether. Non-fiction books in particular regularly have bullet lists in them, and if you have lots of bulleted lists in any particular book you can end up with dodgy margins, among other unattractive changes.
It’s common knowledge among self-publishing authors that Word generated bullet lists and Kindle books are not the best of friends. The easiest ways around this are to either to manually insert bullet symbols at the beginnings of each sentence of the list, or to create the lists as images in software built for the purpose, or to use Canva or some similar online image creation site. Here’s an example of using a screenshot of a list as an image.
We can be much more creative with our POD paperback books than with the limitations Kindle books give us because once the fonts are embedded, and the manuscript is saved to PDF, what you see there is locked in and will appear that way in your print book. Sometimes with bullets though, Word itself gets creative in ways that are hard to fathom or change. For instance, certain bullets mysteriously change size, leaving your lists looking patchy and irregular. There is no obvious place to change them no matter how deeply you dig into your formatting ribbons. Luckily there are ways, not only to change or regulate your bullet sizes without at all affecting text size, but also to get creative and add personalised-particularly-for-your-book bullets. Once they’re embedded in the PDF file, they will appear beautifully in your paper book. Here’s how you do it.
Firstly, to change bullet size without changing text size, simply use the Show/Hide function (Click on pilcrow emblem in the Home ribbon ¶ and these will appear where formatting is used in your manuscript). Next Highlight ONLY the pilcrow sign at the end of each item in the bullet list one at a time and change the font size bigger or smaller. This will change the size of the bullet only while leaving the text font size the same.
For a bit of fun, why not try making your own bullets. Firstly apply a bullet to the page and then right click on it. From the dropdown menu select Define New Bullet from the Bullet Menu. Choose Symbol or Font, or for your own personalised bullet, choose Picture and browse your computer for an image, load it up and there you have it!
If it’s too small use the above process to enlarge your bullet picture without making the text to large at the same time. This way you can make your non-fiction print books wonderfully individual to you or your book’s topic.
Next EMBED and Print to PDF for upload to your POD platform.