Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Writers Gotta Read, Right? – June is bustin' out all over

It's JUNE, the start of summer and perhaps a little more reading time for us all. If you delve into this list of June holidays, there's a mountain of holiday themes to plan your reading around. So, without further ado, here are a few holiday-themed June reading lists.

Earlier this month, BRP blogger Maryann Miller offered up some Father's Day reads. Here are a few additional lists to consider:
 Now, how about the rest of the month? Well, June is Gay Pride month.

Image by Jasmin Sessler from Pixabay
Hold your rainbow flag high with pride with these book lists:
Also, as BRP blogger Linda Lane noted in her post of June 13th, the month includes a lot of chocolate holidays. 
 June is also Candy Month (!!), Aquarium Month, and National Adopt a Cat Month. What's more, June 4 is Hug Your Cat Day. However if I were to list all the books involving cats, well, this post would be very, very long.

We'd love to hear what's on your reading list for June. Please share the title of a book you are currently reading and what you think of it so far.
Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for "editor/writer"). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit AnnParker.net for more information.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A National Month (or Twelve) Just for Me

There’s a big fat whirlpool trying to suck me back into total retirement mode. It lures me closer with its siren song of book titles (novels and non-fiction releases) I want to read, hobbies I want to revisit, new skills I want to learn (like playing that stupid ukulele I bought).

What is constantly being pushed to the bottom of my priority list? Writing, revising, editing, blogging, and everything related.

In order to keep up with my critique group, I’ve switched to submitting hurried first drafts of short stories which I intend to submit to anthologies if I get around to revising and submitting before the deadlines. I did get two stories submitted to two different anthologies. One was accepted and will appear in Five Star’s November 2019 release of The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West.

I haven’t heard back about the submission to the Northern Colorado Writers 2019 Anthology called Rise (which has beautiful cover art).

Two other organizations I belong to have announced anthologies as well. If I can pull myself together long enough to produce a completed story for each, I’ll be amazed. The whirlpool is pulling me closer, my Want to Read stack is calling, and then there are those new Netflix releases (Dead to Me and Murder Mystery).

As I tried to think of decent blog topics for here and for my own blog, I looked for the usual prompts, especially those wonderful lists of National Months, Weeks, and Days in June. There were important observances there, but none that seemed to really fit my mood.

What I needed was a National Lollygagging Month. Or a National Put Off Until Tomorrow Month.


I pulled back from the whirlpool as my weird little brain took off on a brainstorming rant of national months that don’t exist but should:

National Spring Fever Month
National Summer Doldrums Month
National Relaxation Month (There is a Relaxation Day on August 15th, clearly not enough)
National Goof Off Month (Goof Off Day was March 22nd)
National Do Nothing Month (Nothing Day was January 16th)
National Take Time Off Month
National Procrastination Month (There was a Procrastination Week in early March--I probably participated without realizing it was official)

And especially for us writers:

National Do Not Write a Word Month, and
National Writer’s Block Month

That’s eleven. Does anyone have a suggestion to fill in that 12th slot? That would cover me for a whole year of lollygagging! Just think how many books I could read.

While I’m at it, let me highly recommend two novels from Colorado authors Charlotte Hinger (The Healer’s Daughter) and Peter Heller (The River). Charlotte’s vivid and poignant novel is historical fiction based on the true story of the all-black Kansas community Nicodemus, established just after the Civil War. Peter’s novel is a literary adventure thriller with so much tension you need to set the book down once in a while to catch your breath.

Happy reading (and lollygagging).

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is also now available in a large print edition.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Seven Books I Love

A friend on Facebook tagged me a few weeks ago to name seven books I loved. In no particular order, here are my seven choices and why I loved them.

1. Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane. To me, Mystic River is the perfect crime novel. It starts when three boys are playing in the street, and a big car pulls up. A man who claims to be a cop chooses the one boy who doesn’t live on the street and tells him to get into the car. He does. The story picks up about thirty years later, and how that one incident comes back to haunt them all. By the way, I crossed the Mystic River Bridge, now known as the Tobin Bridge, every day going to college.

2. Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Kruger. A coming of age novel where a middle-age man looks back on his thirteen-year old life and the death of a friend and the family members who shaped his manhood. Beautifully written and evocative of time and place.

3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Again, the main character looks back on his childhood in Afghanistan at a time when the country was on the verge of revolution. It’s a story of friendship, betrayal, and redemption. It’s not an easy read in some places, and I cried for its power.

4. The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton. The main character, mute since the age of eight, finds the one thing he can do better than anyone is open locks. Of course, this leads him to a life of crime. He lands in prison at the age of eighteen, which is where he narrates his story. That leads to uncovering the tragedy that rendered him mute. Loved the character because for me, great characters are why I read.

5. The Other Wife, by Michael Robotham. It’s not fair to pick just one of Robotham’s Joe O’Laughlin series, because they’re all terrific, as are his standalone novels. In this one, Joe discovers his parents’ sixty-year marriage isn’t what he thought when his father is brutally attacked, and there’s a strange woman, covered in blood, crying at his bedside. Joe is a psychologist with Parkinson’s Disease. The symptoms progress along with the series, but Joe forges on. Each book stands alone, but if you can, read them in order.

6. L.A. Requiem, by Robert Crais. An Elvis Cole/Joe Pike book, and the first one that highlights Joe, who is one of my favorite characters in crime fiction, along with Will Trent in Karin Slaughter’s series. I was never a big fan of the wise-cracking Cole, preferring the darker Pike. This is one of the few books I’ve read twice, so take that with a grain of quinoa.

7. Iron House, by John Hart. This is a dark story of two brothers discarded by their mother into a freezing river and rescued by hunters. One is a newborn, the other is ten months old; one is weak, the other strong. They wind up in Iron Mountain House for Boys. That violent beginning shapes the divergent paths thrust upon them into adulthood. It’s a haunting, beautifully written story.

Honorable Mention, or a few other books that easily could have been one of the seven: The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd; Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; The Bone Collector, by Jeffrey Deaver, The English Girl, by Daniel Silva, Dixie City Jam, by James Lee Burke, and of course, a book on almost everyone's best list, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

June and Chocolate Go Together Like Love and Marriage

June 3 is National Chocolate Macaroons Day.
June 7 is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day.
June 11 is National German Chocolate Cake Day.
June 16 is National Fudge Day (chocolate, of course).
June 20 is National Ice Cream Soda (a personal chocolate story's attached to this one).
June 22 is National Chocolate Eclair Day.
June 26 is National Chocolate Pudding Day.
June 27 is National Ice Cream Cake Day (definitely chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream).

In case you haven't guessed by now, I'm an incurable chocoholic. For as long as I can remember, chocolate has topped my list of favorite treats—with one temporary (thankfully) exception. More on this later.

My feelings about chocolate can best be stated by the following poem (and with profound apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning):

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My arm can reach, when hidden out of sight
The creamy, sweet confection that I crave.
I love thee purely, as on thee I gaze.
I love thee more as each and ev'ry day's
Most yearning need, both morning and at night.
I love thee freely—thou art my delight.
I love thee with the passion known to those
Who long for choc'late's gift of sweet repose.
Upon the tongue thee slowly melts away
And transforms doldrums to a special day.
I love thee with a love I'll never lose
As long as I retain the right to choose.
When on the day I draw my final breath,
When friends and loved ones all around me stand,
I'll go smiling full of sweetness to my death.
And bequeath all my choc'lates to their hands.

Now comes the story of the chocolate soda. When I was about four years old, my family traveled from Indiana to Wisconsin on a bus to visit my dad's sister. Just before getting back on a bus to head home, my mother bought me my favorite treat—a chocolate soda.

As a youngster who had occasional bouts of motion sickness, I probably still lacked the foresight to choose a less dangerous treat. Mama, on the other hand, should have known better. (I don't remember crying and begging for the soda, but then it's been more than three-quarters of a century ago.)

Long story short: my stomach was not pleased with my food choice, so it decided to throw it back at me . . . or rather at the Catholic priest who sat on the seat next to me. Fortunately for this embarrassed little girl and her even more embarrassed mother, he was the epitome of graciousness and understanding, never once complaining because he had to wear my soda all the way to his destination.

I obviously survived this humiliating experience, but I was a teenager before ever daring to drink another chocolate soda. Do any of you have embarrassing moments involving chocolate—or June?

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and romance. You can contact her at websites: LSLaneBooks.com and DenverEditor.com.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Books for Father's Day

Looking ahead to Father's Day, I thought it would be nice to feature a few books that would make a nice gift for your father. There is everything from humor, to inspirational, to fiction available and books always make a good gift. Maybe Dad would like that better than a tie.  I know my father did.

There isn't room to list all the wonderful books out there, so I picked just a few.

The Life Of Dad
Jon Finkel
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Adams Media (May 7, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1721400303
ISBN-13: 978-1721400300
Kindle $10.99 Hardcover $11.72

ABOUT THE BOOK A heartwarming and enlightening collection of advice, wisdom, and practical skills featuring an all-star cast of fathers from the popular online community Life of Dad.

Becoming a dad gives men a VIP pass into the greatest club on earth: fatherhood. Its rewards are unmatched, its challenges, uncharted. The experience can reach euphoric highs and gut-punching lows. For those moments (and everything in between), The Life of Dad has your back.

The Life of Dad is an all-encompassing, entertaining distillation of the full dad experience, through a collection of interviews, podcasts, online chats, Facebook Lives, and more, dispensing collective wisdom from dads who have been in the trenches.

From Shaquille O’Neal explaining how he’s taught his kids to be grateful, or Michael Strahan highlighting the importance of accountability, or Jim Gaffigan discussing the challenges of having a house full of kids, The Life of Dad has it all. Including thoughts from Ice Cube, Henry Winkler, Chris Jericho, Denis Leary, Freddie Prinze Jr, Charles Tillman, Mark Feuerstein, and many, many more, you’ll find plenty of camaraderie in the hardest—but most rewarding—job of your life!

Dad I Love You Because
River Breeze Press
Series: I Love You Because Book (Book 10)
Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 10, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1983681415
ISBN-13: 978-1983681417
Paperback $7.29

ABOUT THE BOOK -  Give Dad a Personalized Gift he'll Love!
Dad will treasure this fill in the blank book.  Prompts on the right side are easy to fill in for kids and are also perfect for adult children. Pages on the left can be remain blank or can be used for photos, stickers, magazine cut-outs, or drawings. Your Dad will appreciate that you spent the time to make him a loving gift!

The write up about the book indicates that it doesn't take long to fill in the information using the prompts, and this kind of personalized gift is always one that is treasured.

For fathers with new babies, there are quite a few charming books for reading to babies and children. It was interesting to see so many categories when I typed in "Books for dads" on the Amazon search bar: books for fathers to read to daughters, books for fathers to read to young children, dad joke books, and several more.

It was hard to pick just one to feature, but I finally decided on the Mercer Mayer book. I've enjoyed the stories featuring Little Critter since he first started writing them in 1966, and this one highlights the special relationship of children and fathers.

Just Me And My Dad
Mercer Mayer
Age Range: 3 - 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 2
Lexile Measure: AD480L (What's this?)
Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; 17913th edition (March 2, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307118398
ISBN-13: 978-0307118394
Library Binding $13.24 Paperback $3.51

ABOUT THE BOOK--- Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter is going on a camping trip with his dad in this classic, funny, and heartwarming book. Whether he and his dad are canoeing, fishing, or building a campfire, parents and children alike will relate to this beloved story. A perfect gift for Father’s Day . . . or any day!

For Christian spiritual reading, there are quite a few books available including Homilies From the Heart, a book I recently released that is a compilation of some of the homilies my husband preached. He was a Deacon in the Catholic church, serving for over 30 years in large and small parishes where his words were always well received. Many of his homilies were lost as he had deleted them from my computer after he retired, and I didn't know that until a few years after he died. I did, however, find a number of the handwritten ones and used those to make this little book.

Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. She won her first writing award at age twelve with a short story in the Detroit News Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and continues to garner recognition for her short stories, books, and screenplays. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Pageread her Blogand follow her on Facebook and TwitterHer online workshop on self-editing, part of a series of online writing workshops from Short And Helpful, can be found HERE

Thursday, June 6, 2019

When a Book Humbles You

I’ll start with a confession. I neither like nor enjoy most modern “literary” fiction. I’ve tried repeatedly to get involved with some Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner, only to throw it down with a combination of disgust and boredom within a few chapters. Not every single fictional character or family must suffer from such extreme dysfunction that they can barely make it through a day without booze or pills. A book needn’t feature only repellent people who have overpowering murderous urges toward their closest friends or family members in order to qualify as “literary.” But apparently, the gods of modern literature have dictated it must be thus, so bookstore shelves sag with a ponderance of these bleak modern novels.

I’m not saying every book I read must be a variation on Pollyanna…simply that once in a while, I’d like to read a story of struggle, hope, ambition, and obstacles overcome that actually has a happy ending. Why can’t books about joy be considered as worthy of the designation of literature as stories about unending agony?

All my ennui toward modern literature collapsed into a heap when my long wait on my library’s Hold List ended and I was able to read this year’s winner of The Pulitzer Prize for Literature, The Overstory by Richard Powers. It is both one of the most profoundly moving and yet also terrifying works of fiction I have ever read.

I wasn’t familiar with Powers’ work prior to reading this book, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions about him. It didn’t take long for his exquisite wordcraft to grab hold of me. Powers writes in stretches of austere beauty, where not a single surplus word blunts the impact of his meaning. He intersperses that spare elegance with chapters as florid and overgrown as the mysterious, endangered, primal things that are his true stars, thereby creating a rhythm as mesmerizing as the motion of a train rocking along the rails.

Powers starts by giving readers a teasing brief, the merest suggestion of what is to come. He then segues into the story of a single character and a single tree. In this way, the author introduces the nine main characters and their individual connections to the lives of the trees growing around and through them. Next, he pulls the story out to a longer view and starts to interweave all his vast forests, leading his characters into and out of each other’s lives in vital and compelling ways. He didn’t write this book so much as he allowed it to grow and become the thing it was meant to be.

He chronicles the struggles of people who love and value trees, who know the importance of maintaining Earth’s ancient forests, who are fighting to save the last few green places in the world. They lock arms and bravely face off against people and corporations who regard the Earth as little more than a personal if occasionally inconvenient garden where they are entitled to endlessly harvest, extract, and abuse in their ongoing quest to expand their own power and wealth. They do all this with no regard whatsoever for the irreparable damage they’re inflicting upon this planet we all call home.

As I read, I realized with growing horror the book is a confirmation of things I have long suspected were true. We humans are hurtling toward oblivion, unwitting passengers on a plane flown by mad pilots who are willing to rip off the wings midflight and sell them for scrap because they have parachutes, and don’t care that none of the other passengers do.

By the time I realized most of the human characters in the novel do have problems with booze and pills and murderous urges, the creeping green vines of the story had woven themselves so tightly into the marrow of my being that there was no way I could have put the book down without ripping out a little piece of my heart. Besides, there is hope in this book. There is more than a smidge of joy. And there is that unrelenting terror.

The Overstory may not move you as profoundly as it did me. After I finished reading it, I laid awake most of the night thinking about it, and it occupied my thoughts for much of the following day. I believe this book has the power to move humanity in much the same way that Silent Spring did. For a long while, Rachel Carson’s seminal work on the evils of widespread DDT use slowed down the poisoning of our fragile Earth. Now we are back to bathing in an unending stream of toxic chemicals, ruled by individual and corporate greed that never takes the greater good or even the survival of humans as a species into consideration. Now, we need this book.

No matter your belief system regarding Mother Nature, the Earth, plastic waste, greenhouse gases, deforestation, pollution or pesticides, Powers’ book will speak to you in some way. You will come away from The Overstory richer for having read it.

As for me, this morning I went out and planted a tree.

Patricia B. Smith is a journalist who is the author of 11 published books, including Idiot’s Guide: Flipping Houses, Alzheimer's For Dummies and Sleep Disorders for Dummies.

Pat is also an experienced professional developmental editor who serves as an Editorial Evaluation and Developmental Coordinator for Five Star Publishing. She works with private clients as well and has helped many authors land their first publishing contracts. Many of her clients have achieved notable success, including two winners of the Missouri Writers’ Guild Show-me Best Book of the Year Award.

Connect with Pat on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Writing Workshops July to September 2019

Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long writing workshop writing related events are a good way to commune with other writers. They are opportunities to network and get your name out there. In some instances, you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company.

Local conferences are a good place to meet potential critique groups or recruit members.

Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should choose an event that speaks to your needs and desires.

July 1-26, 2019 (Registration begins May 1) New York State Summer Writers Institute, Skidmore College, New York

July 7-14, 2019 IWWG 41st Annual Summer Conference, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

July 8-14, 2018 30th Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers, Enterprise, Oregon

July 9 - 13, 2019 Thrillerfest XIII, Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City, NY

July 10-21, 2019 Southampton Writers Conference, Southampton, New York

July 16-28, 2019 Sewanee Writers’ Conference, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee
July 24-27, 2019 Romance Writers of America, New York, New York

July 25-27, 2019 Midwest Writers Workshop, Muncie, Indiana

August 1-4, 2019 Writers Police Academy, Murdercon, Raleigh, N.C.

August 1-4, 2019 Cape Cod Writers Center's Conference, Hyannis, MA

August 9-11, 2019 Myths and Legends Convention, Denver, Colorado

August 14-21, 2019 The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont

August 23-25, 2019 The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, New York, NY

August 22-25, 2019 Killer Nashville Franklin, Tennessee, 
https://killernashville.com/ Registration Starts January 1, 2019

September 6-9, 2019 Bouchercon, Dallas, Texas https://www.bouchercon2019.com/

September 6-8, 2019 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Workshop, Denver, Colorado

September 11-15, 2019 Historical Romance Retreat, Riverside, California
September 13-16, 2019 Kentucky Women Writers Conference Inc., Lexington, Kentucky https://womenwriters.as.uky.edu/

September 14, 2019 Book EM, Lumberton, North Carolina

September 19-21, 2019 Hampton Roads 10th Annual Conference, Virgina Beach, Virginia http://www.hamptonroadswriters.org/2019conference.php

September 22-29, 2019 Southern California Writers Conference, Irvine, California http://writersconference.com/la/

September 23-29, 2019 Free Expressions Breakout Novel Intensive 2.0, San Antonio, Texas http://www.free-expressions.com/breakout-novel

September 27-28, 2019 Castle Rock Writers' Conference, Castle Rock, Colorado

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.