Summertime and the livin’ is sweet! And…hot. What would we have to talk about if we didn’t have weather? Books, maybe? That’s what about a dozen FLARE authors (Finger Lakes Authors and Readers Experience) did on a hot Sunday in July – at the lovely Vineyard View Winery. For the second year, wine-tasters got to chat with book-writers while they sipped. And yes, it was hot. But I was lucky that fellow author and friend Maija DeRoche shared her tent, and we appreciated a fairly steady breeze while we sipped. Any day we get to talk books is a good, good day!
Making Stuff to Sell…
My friend Pat and I are gearing up for the Waterfront Arts Festival. I’ve been cranking out scarves and polymer clay jewelry to beat the band. (Who is the band and why do they need to be beaten?) I get so much satisfaction from making stuff. I joke that it’s therapy and that I apparently need a lot because I’m always making something. Except it’s not really a joke. I do need this therapy! And I’m grateful to Pat for the chance to sell what I make. Check out our Butterfly Junction wearable art including this polymer clay and bead statement necklace. We can help you turn heads!
The novel progresses! Two sets of revisions done, and at least one more to go. Very soon. I’ve taken the last few weeks to I attend to work that pays bills. And I needed a revision break! I’m hoping I’ll see the story with fresh eyes in round three. Because the break is over. Back to it this week! My task – cut more, tighten more! With focus and luck, this third round will satisfy my picky self, and I’ll deem the manuscript is ready to pass it on to an editor. One step closer to putting the book in your lovely hands. I’ll not ask you to hold your breath. The task list from here to there is still dauntingly long.
And now to my next form of therapy – my drug of choice. Reading.
Here’s the round-up of the books I’ve read this month.
Catherine Ryan Hyde gave me another thought-provoking and readable tale. In late November 1941, fourteen-year-old Steven feels like an outcast in his family and his rural California town. Until other outcasts welcome his friendship – among them a Japanese boy and another whose father lets him take a fall for a crime the father committed. Steven would hide them both from the threats they face though he’s never once believed himself to be brave. Again and again, he rises to the challenges of the times and his own personal awakening, and I rooted for him every step of the way! Great story!
What I’ll say about Hashimi’s book is ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!’ Ten-year-old Sitara has a privileged life in prosperous 1978 Afghanistan – before the Russian invasion and before the Cold War tears her from everything and everyone she holds dear. We follow her journey from a traumatized but oh-so brave childhood to 2008 when unanswered questions haunt her even as she forges a successful surgical career and only a return to her home country offers a chance for healing. I learned so much about Afghanistan that I never knew in this wonderfully engaging tale. Had politicians even twenty years ago been required to read a story such as this, would Afghanistan would be a different country today? I think maybe. It’s that remarkable – fiction that reads like truth in the best possible way. Our whole book club loved this book and the depth of the conversation it generated!
And now for a more light-hearted tale… Jenna’s in a funk and agrees to drive her grandmother Evelyn to her New England hometown as an escape from her troubles. She’s always known her grandma was feisty, but she’s stunned to learn about Evelyn’s great forbidden love before she married Jenna’s beloved grandfather. And about the richly interwoven network of friends, family, and yes, a former lover, her grandmother maintains in her old coastal home. It’s an entertaining tale with useful insights about the influence of prejudice toward and by generations of Jewish and Portuguese families.
Here’s a book that attempted to emulate Tony Morrison’s Beloved in addressing the haunting legacy of slavery. Haunting is a key element in this story as it was in Beloved. But the convoluted multitude of characters made the book over-complicated for my taste. I no sooner got to care about a character than she’d disappear never to show up in the story again. And then I was asked to care about another character who also disappeared. The end result was a book I found not really worth the work of trying to keep all the different characters and timelines straight.
I subscribe to several book deal sites (Fussy Librarian, Bookbub, Freebooksy) and often download a book simply because it’s free. This was one of those – chosen on the basis of the cover, title, and price. And? I found it worth the price. The characters were likable and what’s not to like in a close-knit seaside town? The trope – young woman reluctantly returns to her hometown – is one I used in Come Back. But I hope I was more careful than Thayne or her editor – both far more successful in terms of sales than I – to be less redundant and more subtle about my character’s issues. Thayne used a sledgehammer to highlight them when I thought a few well-placed hints would more than suffice.
I think I paid for this one (discounted price) because I liked Hoover’s It Ends With Us – even though Finding Cinderella was billed as a novella. I’m not usually a fan of short fiction since I like knowing more about characters before I fully invest in them. Hoover did manage to make her characters intriguing with enough sexy grittiness to keep my attention. So for what it was, I liked this one well enough. But do I think it would have been a more compelling tale with more and deeper character development and more building up to the abrupt revelations these teens faced? I do. Once again, I learned that for me, quality does often require sufficient quantity.
Now here was a plot I didn’t expect. Teenager Maggie O’Hara had a heart transplant and never quite got over owing her life to the death of another young girl. Was it survivor guilt that led Maggie to settle for a lukewarm life and an inability to cope when that life implodes anyway? Enter her donor’s brother with new info about young Lucy Harte. Will Maggie find her own dreams by attempting to fulfill the dreams and goals Lucy never got the chance to do? It was fun watching her try, especially when one result was a madly passionate affair with a Frenchman Maggie knew for three days. Fiction. Where one can happily dispense with reality. In the end, the premise was perhaps more powerful than the resulting story. But also worth the price and the time.
Raffle prize winner of the month
Bonnie Schweizer stopped by our FLARE booth a few weeks ago, and because she signed up for Salutations, she won a couple of my creations – a felted sunflower stick-pin and beaded necklace – in an adorable flower evening bag. Congratulations Bonnie! It’s in the mail!
Look for future raffle opportunities! I’m always making stuff and whenever you sign up to be on my mailing list, you’ll enter to win some new treasure I created. Sign up here.
I’m also pleased to announce a special giveaway/sale promo for my novel Come Back on Kindle August 12-17. Get your kindle copy for free August 12-15. And in case you forget, you’ll still have a chance to grab it for the bargain price of just $0.99! I’m planning a similar promo for Home Place. Keep your eyes peeled in the next month or two!
I hope wherever you are, you’re able to enjoy a safe and reasonably comfortable summer. It’s precious here where I live – and far too brief for my taste. So I make a special effort to enjoy every minute – luscious tomatoes, peppers, cukes, and Swiss chard from my garden, crisp sweet corn from a handy farm stand, a paddle on our lovely lake, an hour or two lounging in my hammock with a book… May you savor similar joys of summer!