Guest Blogging Webinar

This instructor is great! Check out her webinar for the best advice on guest blogging.

Guest Blogging: My Favorite Self-Promotion Method for Writers

There’s one last chance to attend a guest blogging webinar in 2016. This session will take place on 29 November 2016 at 6pm GMT.

In this free one hour seminar, Laurie Garrison, PhD will talk about why guest blogging is a fantastic way for writers to get their work in front of new audiences. She’ll show you how to use some free online tools to find good sites to write for and share some brainstorming techniques for coming up with angles to interest new audiences. In summary, this is what the webinar will cover:

  • What guest blogging is and why you should do it.
  • Finding websites that are worth writing for in terms of content and traffic.
  • Brainstorming angles for reaching new audiences.

At the end of the session, Laurie will tell you about her newly launched Online Self Promotion Course and there will be an opportunity for you to ask questions about it. She will also make a special offer for those who want to go on to do the course.

Laurie would like to use two or three attendees’ work as examples in the webinar. If selected, you will receive some additional advice in terms of websites to pitch to and angles to use, which will be specific to you and your writing. You’ll receive instructions on how to submit your work for consideration after signing up for the webinar below.

This webinar will take place on Tuesday, 29 November from 6-7pm(ish) GMT.

Sign up here.

Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

January 2016 Penguin Random House

What a beautiful and spare book. This latest from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Strout knocked me off my chair!

When a woman goes into the hospital for a long stay to combat an illness the doctors cannot pinpoint, she is separated from the family she has built: her husband and children continue with their lives while her life stays in limbo.

In this strange, liminal space between the healthy world and the world that tends to sickness, Lucy considers her life. She records it in a memoir or journal; we’re never quite sure whether what we’re reading is intended for publication or if she will hold these thoughts only for herself.

And the review intermingles her childhood under an uncaring and sometimes cruel mother and father with the family she has built. We discover early on that the friend who brings her children to visit will eventually be the woman her husband selects. He, meanwhile, doesn’t visit her at the hospital, another form of cruelty and neglect she grapples with during these months.

At some point, her mother quite unexpectedly appears for a visit. For five days, her mother sits next to her hospital bed, always refusing the cot the nurses offer to sleep sitting up on the chair. It is a mournful waiting, much like a wake, and brings things to the surface that Lucy has never faced.

She faces them now but not through clashes with her mother. Instead she considers them carefully, shifting between a criticism of her own writing through what she learned during a writing workshop and how the author who conducted the workshop responded to her work and that of others.

By the time she leaves the hospital, Lucy has lost quite a bit. But she has found herself.

Truly a touching and quiet novel that you’ll speed through…and think about long after turning the last page.

For another contemporary novel about family relationships, try The Family Made of Dust.

5 stars!

I received an ARC from the publisher so that I could write this review.

Book Review: Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets

February 2016 Berkley

If you’re not familiar with this title and you like strong female protagonists, you should be. Especially since the book divides the lead role between two equally tenacious individuals, and because neither of them are perfect.

Interested yet? Then pick up Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets. The author has made some interesting choices here, so if you’re a writer and read to see how others do their jobs, you’ll want to get this book, too.

Readers will find chapters that alternate between following Amy Raye, a woman who gets lost in the woods, and Pru, an archaeological law enforcement ranger who has been trained–and who has trained her dog–in search and rescue techniques.

When Amy Raye goes missing during an elk hunt, Pru is called in to help. What follows is a long search (I won’t say for how long because that might spoil the read for some) on Pru’s part and a battle for survival on Amy Raye’s part. Bears, cougars, snow, starvation…all the usual issues present for both women.

What isn’t as usual is the history both women bring to their individual struggles. Pru was left a single mom when a casual affair ended before she knew she had become pregnant. Amy Raye has different difficulties that revolve around men and a childhood spent growing up on a farm.

As the search continues, both women look deeply into their pasts. They try to fit themselves into the lives they have built, looking always for some sort of redemption. Their goals are never guaranteed, and not until the very last chapter do readers discover whether they succeed or fail.

The interesting choices made by the author include making Amy Raye a hunter…hunting is generally frowned upon–sometimes quite strongly–in America, and having a woman take on the role potentially means that some readers will dislike her from the start…or simply not pick up the book.

A second is Amy Raye’s history, which she struggles with even in the midst of struggling to survive. I can’t reveal that but let’s say it’s not anything a woman is “allowed” or encouraged to do, unlike men who tend to get away with the same behaviors quite easily.

Finally, the author has loaded in quite a bit of technical information. It was wearying after a bit (for me, anyway) to learn the exact types, weights, and other specifications of the equipment each woman used. It really dragged the pace.

However, I can also defend the author’s choice. Since the characters are women, readers might need more of that information to be convinced that both of these women know what the hell they’re doing. We all know that women in fiction are not as respected as male characters, so the author might have needed to compensate by loading in much more than she might have given a different story.

All in all, however, this is a strong presentation of a story that will captivate readers…even if they don’t like hunting, even if they have never set foot in the wilderness.

If you love strong female leads, try Beloved: A Sensual Noir Thriller, which features a female FBI agent.

4 stars!

I received a copy from the publisher so that I could write this review.

Book Review: Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Book review

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Catapult, 2016

Oh, what a surprise I discovered when I opened up this book. Such a slim novel can be deceptive; yes, Margaret the First is a fast read but readers will be left with a swirling paradise of thoughts, emotions and impressions after reaching the end.

This is all about Margaret Cavendish, a duchess who was the first woman in England to dare to write for publication rather than some soggy byproduct of bored days.

Along the way, readers peek into her marriage, her life, the disruptions she suffered due to various events, and her own disruptive activities that both made her more famous (much like Lady Gaga) and made her the focus of ire.

Of course, simply daring to write, burdened as she was with the disorder of having been born female, was disruptive enough. These various disruptions are mirrored in a prose style that is staccato and brief yet never slim with the impact.

Go out and get a copy of this novel right now. You can’t miss this one if you care one bit about quality prose, about women, or about the history of literature and the impact it can have on society.

For insight–and more than a few laughs–about literature and the writing industry today, including where women and other underrepresented voices stand, grab a copy of Writing While Female or Black or Gay. 

Or, if your tastes purely desire fiction, find another strong female protagonist in Beloved: A Sensual Noir Thriller. 

5 stars!

I received a copy from the publisher in order to write this review.

Book Review: The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

April 2016 Random House Children’s Books

OK, all you YA fans, listen up because this book review is for The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas…and it’s one you’ll want to read.

The teaser line on the front cover reads, Everyone has something to hide. The truth is that everyone in this novel is hiding something, including Tessa, the main character.

When she and her friend Callie were young, they were called to testify against a man charged with killing a young woman. There had been a series of deaths in the area, all done in the same method…so they had been murdered by a serial killer.

But both Tessa and Callie harbor secrets about what they saw, and what they did later. Now their lives have supposedly moved on but both are trapped in that night and the aftermath. Until Tessa comes back to say goodbye to her dying father, who is in jail for unrelated crimes, it seems that they will continue on in that limbo, never fully living but knowing that their secret could destroy what little they have built if it comes out.

Plenty of suspects here, and Tessa is a strong young woman, so she’s not going to allow any of them to pass by without taking action. The book scored points with me on those notes. Still, I thought it would end up as at 4 stars…well written and interesting but nothing truly special.

Until I hit the part around 80% through the book. Then I went, oh, wow! I can’t tell you what happens then but it’s a twist I never saw coming. And with that, the book shot from 4 to 5 stars.

If you like books with plenty of twists and lots of elements flying around, try Reparation, in which a young man must save his sister and his new lover from a cult.

5 stars!

I was given a copy by the publisher in order to write this reviews.

Book Review: Zack Delacruz–Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson

Book review

Zack Delacruz #1: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson

Sterling Children’s, 2015

Well, this was a refreshing change for middle grade fiction. Lots of diverse characters here, and a protagonist with a name that clearly places him away from the standard that is too typical in much of what publishers push on readers. So yay, Zack!

And importantly, this isn’t about a boy or others being bullied due to their race or culture. Instead it’s about what every kid faces. It’s a universal theme that happens to have many non-white characters inside, all of whom are real kids. So another cheer for Zack!

The one issue noted is that, while the book promotes respect for everyone, it actually doesn’t follow that line. The teachers, the adults, are the ones who come under fire, and some of the comments are cruel.

So where is the respect there? Does bullying only apply to kids? If you’re in the corporate culture or you’re not white and you walk down the street, you know that bullies are alive and well in the adult world, too. So the ideology doesn’t track entirely.

Still, a great read with plenty of fun for kids.

Parents and teachers who would like to read up on wisdom that can help them guide their kids should check out Seven Sisters: Spiritual Messages from Aboriginal Australia with advice that is as relevant today as it was centuries ago!

And readers who want to understand more about diversity in the publishing industry can check out Writing While Female or Black or Gay.

5 stars!

I was provided with a review copy by the publisher.

Book Review: Super Mind by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.

Book Review

Super Mind: How to Boost Performance and Live a Richer and Happier Life Through Transcendental Meditation by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.

New York Times bestselling author of Transcendence

Tarcher Perigee, 2016

This book promises everything that TM, or transcendental meditation, can offer: stress relief, more emotional stability, and a better outlook and stronger focus that can enrich a reader’s life.

For the most part, it delivers. It does so by providing an avalanche of information about TM, studies done on practitioners, and a medical perspective that blends the allopathic (the modern style) with traditional medicine. So readers benefit by getting both sides of the picture.

This is much needed today. We’ve gone too far to the extreme of allowing drugs and quick fixes to medicate us into thinking that just because we feel great, we are great or our lives are great. TM can offer the real thing. And Rosenthal is clearly an adherent to that perspective.

There’s not a lot new here in terms of information on TM techniques. But the studies that back up the process are great, and should help folks who are wary of false claims and herbal medicines, yoga teachers, and other alternative claims that don’t back up their systems with facts.

If you’re new to TM or want to explore the depths of the science backing it up, this book is a must read.

For another in-depth look at traditional wisdom and how it can enrich modern lives, try Seven Sisters: Spiritual Messages From Aboriginal Australia

4 stars.

I received a copy from the publisher in order to write this review.