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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Rags in the Closet by Gloria Guyton Bradley

This book spans nearly a dozen years in the lives of two sisters.  We watch them learn to cope and survive in an abusive and neglectful household. 

On the negative side, the storytelling is much different than I'm used to.  It caused me quite a few issues in the beginning until I caught on.  The switching of tense is a big distraction for me.  I had to imagine that my Aunt Bess (who is fictional)  was telling me the story.  'You remember Uncle Henry?  He went to the rodeo the other day!  Oh!  Here he is now!  You know, some day, he's going to be a rock star!' Once you get in the correct mindset for the storytelling, it no longer becomes an issue.  There are also a few parts where it feels like I 'called her out' on her own story.  'The girls climbed out of the window.  Daddy nailed it shut and they couldn't open it.  The girls climbed out of the window.'  Um....'Oh yeah...Daddy had to open the window back up.  That's how the girls climbed out of the window again.'  As long as you start the book with this storytelling set in mind, you shouldn't have any issues.

On the plus side, this book had quite a lot going for it.  The characters are brilliantly built and we get in-depth perspective into their minds.  There are a couple of areas that are shocking and unexpected.  While reading, you constantly want to know what's going to happen next.  There's no guessing.  I had a difficult time putting it down.  Once I got a handle on the correct way to read the story, it went really quickly.  It also left on just the right note.  I am anxious to read the next in the series when it's released, but I'm also left feeling satisfied. 

Though this is technically a fictional book, readers of True Crime will enjoy it. There are some great horrific scenes for you horror lovers out there. 

Personal note:  If the words 'perfectly browned to perfection' annoy you, skip this one and move on to the next in your stack.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Let's get personal...

It's been a really long time since I've posted.  Thankfully, I keep a binder with my passwords, or I wouldn't be posting now.  I've missed it :)

I have autoimmune disease.  I've known this since I was six.  However, with aging comes complications.  My immune system has decided that it needs to attack my major organs.  After more than a year, I think we're finally on the right track of treatment.  My doctors and hospitals and pharmacists have been amazingly patient and compassionate throughout.  My family and friends have all pitched in to take care of the things I haven't been able to, as well as continuing to be patient with me.  I haven't been available to anyone.  Not only has my brain not been functioning at full capacity, but I have a special needs child.  He has trisomy 7q11.2.  If you don't know anything about it, that makes you even with the rest of the world.  It's a constant learning experience.  Because of my illness, we've had to switch over to a home schooling situation.  He's actually thriving!  But!  This means that what little energy I've had each day has been devoted to him.  I've missed funerals, births, birthdays, some holidays.  I've missed friend time and family time and even just catching up time.  I'm looking forward to fixing all of this in the future.  I still have a long road ahead of me, but within two months I should be back to my old, cheerful, bookish self.

What does this mean for Litter?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I've missed the book world crazy much.  There have been long stints where I haven't been able to read.  There have been times when I was able to read, but not able to remember what I read.  I haven't written a review in ages.  Oh...I write them in my mind, but they never make it to paper or electronic device.  It's so ingrained in me that I can't help it.  I digress!  I've learned a lot the past year, about myself and the world, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you. 

One of the most important things I've learned is that I can't do everything I want to do.  One of my dearest books in the library is a copy of Robert Frost poems that was given to me by my dear friend, spoken word artist and poet J.K. Blaylock.  I'm sure you all know about the two roads that were diverged in a yellow wood.  My way of thinking has always differed from that.  Why are there only two roads?  How come I can only go down one?  Do I get to climb trees?  Can't I run back and forth from path to path?  Can't I hook someone up with a mini-cam and send them down the other path so I can experience them both at the same time?  Now I know there are only two roads because we have such limited time.  There simply isn't enough daylight to travel down both roads or climb the trees or rush from path to path or even forge your own path but keep sight of another path.  It's so very short.  What's my point?  I can't possibly cover everything in the book world that I want to.  I am human and frail.  Don't get me wrong...I'm still a rock star super hero...but I'm human.  Some days I'll be able to plow through books and reviews and share lots of great information.  Other days I won't even be able to turn on my computer. 

Where this leaves us is that I don't have a clue what I'm doing.  I know there will be no more deadlines for me.  Deadlines will kill you.  Quickly.  There will be no more scheduled items.  If you have a scheduled event, do me a huge favor and message me the day before.  If I'm available and up to it, I'll happily help with marketing.  If I'm not, I won't.  I cannot let the stress of deadlines and dates on a calendar take over my life again.  If you want a review, great!  I can't wait to get back to it!  Please, message me and let's discuss it.  If you have a clear deadline for it, I probably won't be able to do it.  Life is just too chaotic at the moment. 

As usual, this turned out to be quite a rambly post.  I just started my new dose of medicine and the urge to get on here and post was absolutely overwhelming.  That means I feel a bit more like me!  I'm not sure when I'll be back again.  We'll see how it goes.  In the meantime, I'm still here.  I'm still alive.  I'm still fighting.  I still love all you wonderful book people and I appreciate the hell out of everyone that has stood by me and been patient with me throughout all of this.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lala Pettibone's Act Two by Heidi Mastrogiovanni Tour



Description:

Lala Pettibone, a forty-something widow whose outrageous antics befit women half her age, has been imagining her sexy boss, Gerard, is as smitten with her as she is with him.  Enter Gerard's fabulous girlfriend from Paris.

After spending the rest of the day drinking wine straight from the bottle, Lala attends the monthly meeting of her Greenwich Village co-op, where the residents are informed that a toxic wasteland has appeared in the building's basement and everyone needs to pony up forty grand by the end of the week.

Ever the one to make limoncello out of lemons, Lala reluctantly decides to sublet her apartment and visit her Auntie Geraldine in Los Angeles.  Good things come her way in sunny LA, including Dr. David, a handsome veterinarian, and inspiration to transform her previously rejected, uproarious, screenplay into a novel.

Lala Pettibone's Act Two is a wonderfully hilarious, second coming-of-age novel.  Bridget Jones has absolutely nothing on lala in the Late-Bloomer-With-Maybe-Lots-of-Potential Department.




An interview with Heidi Mastrogiovanni:

1.  What inspired you to create Lala Pettibone's Act Two?

I absolutely love to make people laugh.  And I love authors who make me laugh.  I'm proud and humbled that I share a birthday with P.G. Wodehouse, one of the funniest and most charming writers I have ever had the great pleasure of reading.  So a big part of wanting to write Lala's story was the desire to make people laugh.

And, having lived through great sorrow and having found new happiness (with the wonderful help of my incredible friends and family) after I was widowed at the age of 41, i wanted to write a story that might give people a sense that there is always hope for new beginnings.

The desire to have fun was also a big part of the inspiration to write Lala's story.  I find that, more and more, I treasure making decisions about my professional life that bring me the most joy and fun.  I have a good time writing about Lala.  It was that way from the beginning.  And I'm having such a great time writing the sequel to her story.

2.  There are a few nods to theatrical blocking directions in your book.  Do you have a background in theatre?  How did it help inspire you?

I do, indeed.  I majored in Theatre and German in college.  I caught the acting bug in second grade, when I played the dormouse in my elementary school's production of "Alice in Wonderland."

I moved to new York City after college to work in the theatre.  The only thing I didn't realize was that apparently you need to have actual acting talent in order to be an actor!

That sounds a little too precious and self-deprecating...

I was part of a wonderful sketch comedy group in New York for many years, and occasionally I was funny in some roles, but they had to be exactly the right roles for me.  I didn't have the ability to make every role I was given real, and that's my litmus test for the kind of acting I admire.  In "Manchester by the Sea,"  just as a recent example, the acting was so brilliant, I felt as though I was eavesdropping on real people's lives.

As an aside, I just have to add that there is film footage somewhere of a show the sketch comedy group did, and on it I answer a question before my partner in the scene finishes asking the question.  Trust me, it is not pretty.

But working on stage made me very aware of how dialogue sounds, and I think this is an absolutely essential skill for a writer.  Theatre and film and television are all a wonderful part of the storytelling world, and I am always inspired by beautifully written works in the performing arts.  I truly think that there is nothing more inspiring than seeing and reading stories about relationships and about change.

3.  What initially attracted Lala to Gerard?

At the time Lala first met Gerard and had an absolutely instant attraction to him, she managed to bury the fact that Gerard looks like her beloved late husband's twin very deep in her subconscious.  In fact, when her best friend points out the startling similarity to her, Lala thinks she's crazy...

Lala has excellent taste in men...Gerard is smart and funny and charming and he works in the world of words, Lala's favorite place to be...and of course there's also that fabulous French accent...

4.  What made you choose Los Angeles as Lala's destination of choice?

That journey mirrors my own.  I moved to Los Angeles after living in New York City for many wonderful years after college.  Going from east to west in our vast country seems to me to be a quintessential pioneer's journey, and Lala's Act Two involves setting out to discover a new feeling of home for Lala when her tentative feeling of rebirth after the death of her husband is shattered.  It was time for her to find a new beginning, and Southern California seemed to me to be the perfect place to turn her face back toward the sunshine.

It's also a way for Lala to come back to her roots, however reluctantly she does that.  She grew up in Santa Monica and went to college on the east coast.  She swore she would never go back west...and I enjoyed putting her in a position where she had to make going back 'home' work for her.

5.  Do you see yourself in Lala or would you say you're both complete opposites?

I very much see myself in Lala.  We're alike in so many ways, both in terms of certain major aspects of our history and in terms of our values and idiosyncrasies.  I was also widowed at an early age, and I also found love again, as Lala does.  And I love to eat and savor wine and talk a bit too much, just like Lala does!  We share a vast love of language and of senior dogs.  We both love to take long walks and we love to exercise.

We're both only children, and we both never wanted to have kids of our own...We both always wanted to be the kind of crazy, fabulous aunt that nieces and nephews treasure.  The list goes on...

Oh, and Lala and I both overuse ellipses in our writing.

Really, she's a younger version of me...with a fabulous apartment in New York, which I don't currently have, but I'm thinking about shopping for one...

6.  You have a background in screenwriting.  How does writing a novel differ from writing a screenplay?  Do you have a preference?

There are many similarities and many differences.  I love writing screenplays because I love writing dialogue.  In the case of both forms of storytelling, I always want the journey to be about relationships and about change.  And, for me, a story that I want to read or see has to have a hopeful ending, so I always try to put that in my screenplays and novels.

Both novels and screenplays are at their best, I think, when they convey a story that is rich and layered without being convoluted.  I think it's essential to write in a lean style that is still full of nuance.  I think anything that is over-written is hard to get through as a reader.

My current preference is novels, because I love what I feel is the freedom in the novel form to convey inner thoughts.  Screenplays require a very visual approach and they, to a great extent, rely on what is happening in the moment to convey the story.  But I truly do love writing both.  I love spending time with words.  I'm a voracious reader of novels and of screenplays, and I think any writer has to constantly be absorbing examples of their medium.

Screenplays generally have a three-act structure (though goodness knows there are a lot of screenplays that don't), and novels don't require that.  But I actually really like the three-act structure as an audience member, so I tend to write prose with that structure in mind.  I do think novel writing gives the writer more freedom to experiment because novels can be almost anything, whereas screenplays really do have to follow some kind of classic screenplay format.  But I really do love them both!

7.  Favorite book-to-screen movie adaptation?

It has to be "To Kill A Mockingbird."  The actors are brilliant, and they created those unforgettable characters in a way that I can only think of as being like magic.  Gregory Peck was incredible as Atticus Finch, and he earned a well-deserved Oscar for that performance.  And the young actors who play the kids?  Absolutely amazing.

8.  How do you think Lala would do on the big screen?

I have to confess that I wrote it with a movie adaptation in mind.  So I think and hope that it would do well on the big screen.  I think of Lala as a slightly older, American version of Bridget Jones, and I have to say that I really enjoy watching and re-watching all the Bridget Jones movies.

I love romantic comedies that star smart, strong, vulnerable women who take a journey of change and growth.  I'd love to think that the role of Lala would be one that brilliant comedic actors like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kristen Wiig, Amy Schumer (and how great is it that we have a growing list of wonderful women starring in films!) would have fun with.  Of course, if the always-fabulous Kate Winslet played Lala, it might be a form of revenge for an American actor playing Bridget Jones!

9.  The novel has much humor and wit.  How big of a role does comedy play in your daily life?

I'm going to be melodramatic and say that comedy is my life.  Comedy and kindness...and alliteration...

The classic film "Sullivan's Travels" really encapsulates my idea of why comedy is so important.  Joel McCrea's character is a successful producer who is mistakenly jailed.  While he's in prison, he sees how much comfort funny movies bring to the prisoners.  I think comedy brings solace, and I think it helps carry us through the challenging times.

I love words, and I love when words are put together in a smart and inventive way to make people smile.  A great example for me is the Caption Contest in The New Yorker.  The magazine prints a cartoon, and people send in caption ideas.  I swear, I look at those cartoons, and I got nothing.  I mean, no ideas for a funny caption.  And then I read the three captions the magazine chooses for us to vote on, and they are brilliant and hilarious.  It's both inspiring and humbling.  And it's comedy.  Seeing those captions always makes me smile.  Smiling is a wonderful thing to do.  Every day.  As often as possible.

10.  What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

That it's never too late to begin again.  That there is nothing more important than kindness (especially to those who are most vulnerable, such as children and animals) and generosity.  That it's possible to find new happiness after great sorrow.

That a short-waisted woman can find cute outfits to wear if she goes shopping with the right friends who will tell her the truth about which clothes don't work on her...

That too much champagne is never enough...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Newsletter Writing: Being Gender Specific

I read a lot of newsletters.  It's the quickest way for authors, publishers, agents, marketers, and bloggers to keep me up to date on what's happening.  I spend hours a day reading them.  Hours.  Thousands every day.  I love it!

We've had several discussions lately about how to 'up your game' on your newsletter.  You want something that is going to keep your audience coming back.  Let's face it, the average household doesn't spend a lot of money on books.  Considering giveaways, contests, and reader copies, the average reader doesn't need to ever buy a book.  How do you get them to buy your book?  They have to know who you are.  They have to like you.  If they feel a connection with you, they will buy your book.  Your newsletter is your chance to establish that connection with them, as well as keep it going.

As a newsletter writer, you HAVE to stop being so gender specific!  This isn't political!  I know what's going on in the world today and I'm sure some of you jumped to that conclusion.  This has nothing to do with gender issues at all.  It's a simple fact that you are costing yourself money.

Horror authors:  There are women out there like me that eat it up!  I will gladly spend money to buy a book that I know is going to be full of violence and gory good fun!

Romance authors:  There are men out there who love romance and erotica!

By making your newsletter gender specific, you're alienating an entire fan base.  Do NOT open your newsletter with 'Hey gals!'  or 'Hey ladies!'  or 'Yo bro!'  Simply don't do it.  If you're sending your letter out to males or females, you're missing the other half.  No matter how famous you are or how much money you make from writing, every sale counts.  Stop costing yourself sales!

As a consumer, it comes across quite clear to me. When you're gender specific, you're actively going out of your way to not build that author/reader connection.  If you start off with 'Yo bro!', I know you're not talking to me.  You're actively asking me to not take part in your writing world.  You're telling me NOT to spend any of my money and buy your book.  Why would you do that to yourself?


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our new logo!!

I am so excited!  I know a few of you have already noticed it!  Our new logo is finished!  I've been planning to have one made for years.  As with most things, unless I have a sticky note right in front of my face, it isn't happening.  But it's finished!

A huge, huge thank you to Simon Critchell for this!  I didn't know it when we began discussing it, but this is exactly what I wanted!

What does this mean?  It means I'll finally be putting together business cards!  I'll finally be printing up tote bags and t-shirts!

If you haven't seen it, here it is one more time (because it makes me smile and fills me with joy!):


Gather Her Round release day!



Try it before you buy it!  Go here and read an excerpt!

Description:

In critically-acclaimed Alex Bledsoe's Tufa novel, Gather Her Round, a monster roams the woods of Cloud County, while another kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Love and tragedy are not strange bedfellows among the Tufa.  Young Kera Rogers disappears while hiking in the woods by Needsville.  When her half-eaten remains are discovered, the blame falls upon a herd of wild hogs, a serious threat in this rural community.  In response, the county's best trackers, including game warden Jack Cates and ex-military Tufa Bronwyn Chess are assembled to hunt them down.

Kara's boyfriend Duncan Gowen mourns her death, until he finds evidence she cheated on him with his best friend, Adam Procure.  Seeking revenge, Duncan entices Adam to participate in their own boar hunt.  Later, Bronwyn and Jack stumble across a devastated  Duncan, who claims a giant boar impaled Adam and dragged him off.  As this second death rocks the town, people begin to wonder who is really responsible.

Determined hunters pursue the ravenous horde through the Appalachians as other Tufa seek their own answers.  Between literal beasts in the woods and figurative wolves in sheep's clothing, what truths will arise come spring?


What reviewers are saying:


"The latest entry...in this marvelous series combines human drama with just a touch of otherworldlly m agic.  The split nature of the Tufa community is further explored, but Bledsoe never reduces the two sides to basic good vs. evil, as he allows his characters to make their own choices." --Library Journal

"Readers need not have read the previous Tufa books; this title works well as a stand-alone and a spectacular addition to the series.  A must-read for fantasy or literary-fiction fans and also a perfect fit for a mystery lover seeking something a little different." --Booklist

"Bledsoe comfortably inhabits the space where rural fantasy and magic realism overlap and makes it his own." --Publishers Weekly

Want more information?  Take a look at the music behind the book on Alex's author page!





Sins of Empire release day!



Sins of Empire is the first book in a new series set in the Powder Mage Universe.  Take a look at it below.  Then, I hate to say this, but skip Amazon.  Instead, go here and buy an authographed copy!  Of course, if you're not an autographed copy junkie like I am, the book should be available at all of your normal book purchasing places (including Amazon!).

Description:

A world on the cusp of a new age...
The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place -- a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorcerers seeking relics of the past.  Only the iron will of the lady chancellor and her secret police holds the capital city of Landfall together against the unrest of an oppressed population and the machinations of powerful empires.

Sedition is a dangerous word...
The insurrection that threatens Landfall must be purged with guile and force, a task which falls on the shoulders of a spy named Michel Bravis, convicted war hero Mad Ben Styke, and Lady Vlora Flint, a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall's present.

The past haunts us all...
As loyalties are tested, revealed, and destroyed, a grim specter as old as time has been unearthed in the wild land, and the people of Landfall will soon discover that rebellion is the least of their worries.

Giveaway Notice

All winners of giveaways will be notified as soon as their name has been drawn. Each winner will have two weeks to respond in order to receive their prize. Prizes cannot be delivered without an email/physical address. Any prizes that are not claimed within a two week period will be forfeited.

Notice

All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.