Book Review: How I Got Published

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How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own WordsHow I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words by Ray White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title alone is enough to grab the attention of any writer dying to get published. Famous and not-so-famous authors share their stories of failure and eventual success in the brutal business of publishing.

Organized into short essays, a number of authors write about their experiences with query letters, rejections, agents, deals gone wrong, and the unpredictable nature of the literary scene. It’s a tough industry to break into and they are very honest about the fact that publishing is not for those with paper-thin skin or a gelatinous spine. As horrible as that sounds, each author’s story has a strong sense of optimism brought on by a taste of success. The odds of snagging an agent or a book deal may be small, but anything is possible.

Two pieces of advice dominate How I Got Published from start to finish. First, there is no perfect tried and true method of getting published. Second, persistence is a writer’s greatest weapon. The only way to find the right agent or get your work in front of an editor is to put it out there and do so relentlessly. Send query letters even when nothing but rejections follow. Keep revising and writing until no word goes untouched. What it all comes down to is hard work, a little luck, and a great story.

The only flaw with an otherwise highly motivational and encouraging read is a problem with repetition. While every author has their own unique story, they all start to blur together about halfway through the book. Furthermore, most of the writers showcased are mystery and crime fiction writers. Little attention is given to writers in other genres, thereby limiting the inside perspective on agents and publishing houses.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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c.b.w. 2013

A to Z Abroad: Ivan Klíma at The Globe

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Sometimes world travel can lead to the discovery of an individual in addition to a place. While in Prague, Czech Republic, I was lucky enough to find a writer by the name of Ivan Klíma.

Whenever I travel, I make it a point to visit several local bookshops. Even in places where English is not the primary language, bookshops provide a unique insight into the local culture. Besides, in many cases, there is a shelf for English translations of local writers.

In Prague, one of the more prominent bookshops is The Globe. Run by American expats, this bookshop includes new and used books in Czech and English. In addition there is a fantastic café tucked in the back.

The Globe Bookshop, Prague, Czech Republic
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

I found several books by local authors, but Ivan Klíma’s books spoke to me the most. I ended up buying his novel No Saints or Angels, which has since become one of my favorite books.

Ivan Klíma is a renowned writer in the Czech Republic that explores topics regarding oppression and the concept of individual freedom. His personal history of surviving imprisonment at the Terezín concentration camp during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and his later struggles with the dictatorial communist regime all lend to the brutal honesty and hope presented in his novels.

Klíma’s stories always revolve the dichotomy of the human spirit and the cruelty of human nature. Through his works of fiction, he strives to illuminate the importance  of freedom of expression and individuality.

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What happens to people who spend their lives afraid to voice their opinions?  They stop thinking, most likely.    - Ivan Klima

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Suggested Reading:

9781862071032_p0_v2_s260x420  9781862075368

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Part of the A to Z Challenge!

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c.b.w. 2013

 

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

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Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ethan Wate is stuck in a small South Carolina town, where nothing ever happens. While everyone around him seems to thrive on living a mundane life, Ethan dreams of getting out of Gatlin and experiencing more than Civil War reenactments, bake sales, and cotillions.

The first time Ethan lays eyes on Lena Duchannes, he knows everything in his boring world is about to change. Not only is she beautiful, but she is different from all the other girls in town. For a guy who’s had it with normalcy, Lena is the girl of his dreams in more ways than one.

Lena is an instant outcast with her funky wardrobe and her family ties to Gatlin’s resident hermit. Ethan is basically committing social suicide by choosing to hang out with her, but he is hopelessly attracted to the mystery that is Lena. His infatuation soon turns to love and lucky for him the feeling is mutual.

However, it isn’t long before Ethan learns the truth about Lena. There is a reason why she writes numbers on her hands and why it always seems to rain when she is upset. Lena is a Caster (a.k.a. witch) who is inching closer to her 16th birthday. Upon hitting this milestone, she will be Claimed for dark magic instead of light thanks to a longstanding family curse.

Lena’s fear of turning dark incites Ethan’s quest to find a way to release her from the curse. It turns out Gatlin is full of secrets both mortal and supernatural. At the center of it all, is an ordinary boy with more power than he realizes.

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s epic tale is a bit long, but where it lacks in editing, it excels in originality. In a market flooded with paranormal romance, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find YA fiction with unique characters and story lines. Beautiful Creatures breaks the mold by letting the story unfold through Ethan’s point of view. The male perspective puts a new spin on an old formula and it is so refreshing! Garcia and Stohl also deserve props for realistically portraying small-town life in the South. In particular, their references to various modes of prejudice are a sobering reminder that the past repeats itself more frequently than we like to admit.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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c.b.w. 2013

Book Review: The Odd Sea

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The Odd SeaThe Odd Sea by Frederick Reiken

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When sixteen-year-old Ethan Shumway walks down the driveway towards Baker’s Bottom Pond, no one in his family could have known it would be the last time they’d ever see him. Both tragic and resilient, The Odd Sea follows the story of a family coping with the sudden loss of a son and brother.

Ethan’s younger brother Philip watches helplessly as his mother descends into manic depression and his father throws himself into manual labor as a means to deal with his grief. Meanwhile, Philip’s sisters deal with loss in polar opposite ways. The eldest relies on anger and avoidance, while the younger latches onto Philip.

Philip’s naïve hope of finding his brother plays out as he spends his free time searching the woods and Ethan’s favorite places. He hangs out with Ethan’s girlfriend and reads his diary for any clues that might lead to where his brother is hiding. As Philip gets older, his search changes shape as he realizes the possibility that Ethan could be dead. He never truly accepts that reality, but he learns there is a delicate balance between hope and the truth.

The emotional journey of loss deepens with each passing year as the hole of Ethan’s absence never really closes. While Philip and his family find different ways of living with their grief, all find comfort in the love they have for each other.

Frederick Reiken explores the impact of a missing person with so much intensity, Ethan’s disappearance becomes a personal experience. He makes solid choices in imagery that beautifully reflect the emotional conflict between grief, frustration, and guilt from needing to move forward. Subtle and simplistic, Reiken’s writing allows a highly charged story to flow naturally without turning into something melodramatic and unbelievable. This careful sense of storytelling is what makes an unconventional ending work in such a beautiful and realistic way.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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c.b.w. 2013

A Chat With Marie Marshall

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Lupa is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, (see Book Review: Lupa), so I am thrilled to present an interview with the author of this extraordinary novel, Marie Marshall. Not many writers can successfully fuse two distinctive time periods into a seamless storyline, but Marshall pulls it off with both intelligence and finesse. My sincere thanks to Marie for agreeing to take the time to answer my questions with so much thought and detail.

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1) What inspired you to write Lupa? In particular, what are the origins of your interest in the Bosnian War and Ancient Rome?

It’s a long time ago since I actually wrote Lupa – I finished it in 2004 – so it is difficult to remember. I recall that the suggestion that I write about a female gladiator came from a fellow-writer, Lucy P Naylor. Lucy often tells me I’m a better writer than she is, but in fact, if anything, her short stories enjoy more success than mine because of her quirky sense of humour. However, she sometimes gives me ideas for stories that she doesn’t think she’s equal to, if you see what I mean – stories that she thinks need my particular toolkit of literary skills to tackle. Sometimes it’s the suggestion of a plot, sometimes it’s a general idea. In the case of Lupa it was a general idea – to write about a female gladiator. In the end, the book wasn’t ‘about’ a female gladiator, but rather a female gladiator was the vehicle that carried one half of the book. I didn’t want the novel to be simply a ‘sword and sandal’ adventure, I wanted it to be more psychological, I wanted it to explore the idea that people see only what they want to see. 

I have no particular interest in the Bosnian War, nor in Ancient Rome; but the Bosnian War gave one of the central women a reason to be in an environment where she was always going to be, to some degree, an alien, an outsider, someone whose presence, if only in a legal sense, is dubious. Therefore it’s not strange that things happen to her that she can’t quite grasp, things happen that she totally misinterprets.

2) Your novel revolves around the idea of a strong female spirit. Why is this such an important theme to you as a writer?

The strong female spirit. It’s still something which despite the history of women writers from Aphra Behn to Alice Munro, does not feature as prominently in fiction as it might. I don’t see it as a matter of women taking on stereotypically male roles, like Xena on TV. You might think that my female gladiator gets close to that stereotype, but I don’t see her that way, she is a mixture of vulnerability and strength, but they are individual vulnerability and strength as well as, or parallel too, what makes her a strong woman. I think it’s the same for both of the women in the novel. I don’t stop the men in the stories being ‘actors’, taking control of the plot as and when necessary, and I don’t stop the women having the odd delusion about what is actually going on. Now I come to look back on it, I was aware that the story – the stories, rather – drove the book along, drove the way the women acted and felt, but at the same time I tried to write ‘from the inside out’; I immersed myself in the emotions of the story, allowed myself to feel what was happening to the two women. I could drill down deeper into this question, but I would have to start giving plot ‘spoilers’, and I’d much rather people read the book!

3) What was your inspiration for creating the charismatic personality that is Vittorio?

Vittorio needed to be charismatic in order to help build up the misconceptions that Jelena had about him. Again I don’t want to give too much of the plot away. I don’t think this was a matter of inspiration so much as a plot necessity. Also, as a gay woman, it was a bit of a challenge for me to write about a man with that level of charisma and attraction.

4) What is the ultimate message you hope to send to the readers of Lupa?

I didn’t write the novel with a message in mind, I wrote it to be readable. However, I think if a book does not have some kind of message, does not tell us something about human nature, then it is rather thin gruel. The ending – again without giving too much away – is a hopeful one, one which opens up possibilities, at least for my twentieth-century woman, and that hope comes not just because of the final plot twists, but it grows out of what is a little philosophical discussion between the two main twentieth-century characters. What’s going to happen next? Who knows – anything is possible. I guess I want people to enjoy the book, but more, I want them to put it down at the end and have questions to ask about themselves and about human nature.

5) You are also a poet. Where can readers find some of your published work?

I guess Amazon is as good a place to look as any for my first collection of poems, Naked in the Sea, which was published in 2010. My second collection, I am not a fish, is due out before Easter 2013, and again Amazon would be a good place to start. The rest of my work is scattered throughout magazines and anthologies, and there are daily jottings on my blog, I guess. If you happen to be passing through New Orleans and visit the New Orleans Museum of Art, you’ll find one of my poems etched onto an African drum. Not many Scottish poets can claim that!

6) If you were a female gladiator, what name would you take and why?

What name would I take as a gladiator? I put a lot of my own personality into the character of ‘Lupa’, so to an extent I already have a gladiatorial name. I think if I really was a gladiator I wouldn’t care what name I was known by, except perhaps the name known secretly only to Nemesis!

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I found Marie Marshall while wandering through the blogsophere. She posts poetry and prose guaranteed to challenge your imagination and intellect. Be sure to stop by her blog to see her daily adventures in literary creation.

kvennarad.wordpress.com

Her novel, Lupa is available on amazon.com along with her poetry book, Naked in the Sea.

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c.b.w. 2013