Seized by Lynne Cantwell: a review

LynneI expected to enjoy Seized, the first book in Lynne Cantwell’s Pipe Woman Chronicles, because I am a fan of Ms. Cantwell’s direct, journalistic writing style and wry wit from her Indies Unlimited blog posts. What I didn’t expect was that Seized kept me up late several nights in a row because it was so hard to stop reading. The story started easily in the realm of the familiar, with Naomi, a smart mediator who seems to have it all: the powerful job, the handsome boyfriend, and the best friend who understands her better than she understands herself. But wait…we know that nothing comes easily in fiction without consequence. So things twist up a bit when said best friend urges her to tag along on a New Age adventure. Several rounds in a sweat lodge release more than perspiration, including a visit from White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman, a mysterious Native American spirit that weaves in and around Naomi’s life, tasking her with a near-impossible challenge for a mediator…no, for anyone. Lynne’s writing style (and choice of first-person narration) is key here. I became deeply invested in Naomi’s future, and the author rides a nice, believable, and relatable line between the protagonist’s cynicism with the happenings around her and her faith that it’s all for a greater good. The story is smart and thought provoking, the fantasy element sophisticated and well integrated into the storyline. Never did I feel that this was fantasy with a story attached or vice versa. It just worked so well. I’m eager to read the rest of the series.

This Week: Is It Spring Yet?

Daytlna-500-Danica-Patrick-poleThe skies have been a little gloomy in my slice of the Hudson Valley, but if it’s time for Daytona and the Oscars, spring can’t be far behind. Although I’m not having as good a week as Danica Patrick, it’s still pretty sweet around here.

  • I don’t know if you caught this, but the lovely and effervescent Dames of Dialogue let me stop in for tea and a chat.
  • Have you heard of Baby Boomer Lit? With America’s largest age cohort knocking on the doors of, well, aging, this is a genre whose time may have come. Author Claude Nougat, on the heels of her new book, A Hook in the Sky, has started not only a Goodreads group devoted to the idea but also possibly a movement. Lynnette Schneider, a book blogger and member of this group, gave Don’t Tell Anyone a very nice five-star review.

Lots going on with the Indies Unlimited crew to report.

  • The rockin’ fabulous K.S. Brooks has been very active with Indie Authors for Hurricane Sandy. On Sunday at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time, you can hear what she’s been up to and how you may be able to help.
  • Krista Tibbs posted this terrific article, showing us how the old writing canard, “show, don’t tell” actually works.
  • Our resident scam-buster, Rich Meyer, stirred up some interesting discussion about crowdfunding for indie writing projects. What do you think? Practical method of fundraising or begging for dollars?
  • Science fiction author and all-around nice guy Chris James just published the second novel in his Second Internet Café series, The Second Internet Cafe, Part 2: The Cascade Annihilator. If you’d like to grab yourself a free copy, check out his website for details.

Last but not least, in one week I’ll be trying not to panic taking Don’t Tell Anyone out for its first public appearance, at The Golden Notebook, a local independent bookstore in Woodstock, New York, where I launched The Joke’s on Me. Jackie and Nan, the lovely women who run the place, are great to support local indie authors. If you’re in the area (Saturday, March 2 at 5:00 p.m.), I’d love to see you!

I hope YOU had a good week!

Flash Fiction!

ff2012-ebook-leather-713x1024My writing-self felt a little creaky and stiff this week, so I entered Indies Unlimited‘s weekly flash fiction contest. A new prompt goes up every Saturday, and it’s a great chance to play around with the 250-word challenge and bust up a few of those mental cobwebs.

In fact, this flash fiction contest is so cool that IU’s masterminds Stephen Hise and KS Brooks took all of last year’s winning pieces and published them in an anthology. So many great little stories in one place; some of my friends like Ed Drury, Rich Meyer, JD Mader, and David Antrobus were multiple winners. I think I even have one in there somewhere about a rainy night and an angry little white dog.

Anyway, here’s this week’s entry. It’s not in the 2012 anthology, but if it wins this week (voting starts on Wednesday), it will be in next year’s!

———————

Help Wanted

Mike sneezed as the cloud of patchouli incense assaulted his sinuses. “Hello?” He fished a tissue out of his pocket. “You advertised for a groomer?”

An old dude with a gray ponytail and a Warren Zevon T-shirt popped out from the back, drying his hands on a towel. “Namaste,” he growled. “Sorry about the ambiance. It’s the only thing that covers up the wet dog smell. Keeps the neighbors from complaining. It’s not gonna be a problem, is it?”

Mike shook his head and sneezed again.

“Most people get used to it.” The guy eyeballed him, one brow climbing his forehead. “No offense, brother, but you look kind of puny for this work. Some of these critters pack serious poundage.”

“I had a bunch of Irish wolfhounds at my last gig,” Mike said.

“Wolfhounds. Funny.” Crooking a hand, he gestured for Mike to follow him into the back. “They can smell fear. So be cool.”

“Be cool?” Mike said. “I love dogs.”

The dude smirked as he pulled back the curtain. “Just remember that.”

Mike gaped. There was a big tub. And one giant cage. Eight hounds paced a restless loop, softly whimpering. Their variegated coats blended and swirled as they moved under the dim lights.

“They like to stay together. Pack animals.” He turned to Mike. “So when can you start?”

One hound bared a glistening fang. “Uh, right away?”

“Groovy. We’d better hurry, though.” In the shadows, the dude’s eyes seemed to glow. “There’s a full moon tonight.”

My Year of Living Indie

poetry_readingJacqueline Hopkins-Walton, a member of a Facebook group I belong to, recently asked us to kick in our “top ten” favorite books we read in 2012. Five immediately came to mind, several others I can’t name because they’re not officially published yet or I had a hand in editing, and the rest resulted from a quick consultation with my Kindle.

Only one book was put out by a large publisher.

In fact, a further consultation with the K-dude revealed that with the exception of The Maltese Falcon, nearly every book I read in 2012 was written by an indie author.

Curiosity? Solidarity? Poverty?

Yes, all are true. When, in late 2011, I started testing the waters prior to self-publishing my second novel, Drawing Breath, I met a bunch of great, funny, quirky, generous authors who’d decided to chuck pitching to the Big Guys and go their own way. Curious, I read a bunch of affordable—and frequently free—books that didn’t have a flightless waterfowl on their spines. Some needed some work. Some were good. Some were pretty amazing.

I didn’t consciously make a choice to avoid the big names. A few of my favorite trad-published authors, like Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ian McEwan came out with books this year and I will read them, eventually, when the budget allows. (Before you suggest my local library, I am a big fan, although Marion the Librarian does not care for my slow reading pace, which resulted in my returning Ian McEwan’s Solar only halfway done under threat of large fines and manual dispossession.)

My TBR indie list sort of…evolved. Friends came out with new books. Other authors recommended their favorites. One thing led to another. My involvement with Indies Unlimited brought me closer to inspirational, heartbreakingly talented, funny, smart authors from around the world.

Doesn’t mean I won’t sink into a big-name book again. In fact, two are waiting on my nightstand: Jeffrey Eugenides because I’ve adored him since Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, and Jane Green, because I won her latest in a Goodreads Giveaway.

This year in reading just happened. And I’m very happy about it. It’s a lovely feeling, looking down my Kindle directory and seeing so many friends’ names.

So, in no particular order, these were my favorite books I read in 2012:

Jimmy Mender and his Miracle Dog by Leland Dirks
Joe Café by JD Mader
Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip by David Antrobus
My Temporary Life by Martin Crosbie
Upgrade by Stephen Hise
Bad Book by Stephen Hise, KS Brooks, and JD Mader
Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines by Carol E. Wyer
The Sable City and Death of a Kingdom by M. Edward McNally [from the same series; The Norothian Cycle, so it counts as two!]
Charmed Life by Susan Bennett

What were some of your favorites?

Disclaimers:

1. I am a relatively slow reader, and it’s been a busy year.
2. Which means I probably read about thirty books.
3. So I do what I can. And this only one reader’s opinion.
4. There are many, many wonderful authors I’ve yet to read.
5. Even ones I know.
6. Your actual mileage may vary.

So Long, 2012, and Thanks for All the Fish…

happy-new-yearLoss, love, joy, grief, rebirth, pain, triumph: it’s been a rich and melancholic salad of a year for me. That canard of ancient wisdom, “Be careful what you wish for,” is definitely not one to toy with. For a while there, every shiny penny on the sidewalk, it seemed, came with a foot waiting to stomp on my hand as I reached for it.

My professional goals (Thank you, Jim Devitt, for reminding me of the importance of goal-setting) for this year were to publish two novels and continue building up my editing business. I’ve accomplished both. I’m very happy about that. Drawing Breath and Don’t Tell Anyone are both out. I’m helping some wonderful writers get their manuscripts ready for publication. Took me almost fifty years, but I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up. Being up to my elbows in words—my words and those of other’s—is definitely my happy place.

But this year, two additional books came out with my name attached to them as contributing author: Indies Unlimited’s Author’s Snarkopaedia Volume 1 and Indies Unlimited: Tutorials and Tools for Prospering in a Digital World. This would not be possible without the passion and dedication of Stephen Hise and K.S. Brooks, the evil geniuses behind Indies Unlimited. I sit in a little pink room filled with toys in a house in the woods, typing on a keyboard, a recluse by nature, and at times this gets isolating and a bit sad. Being a part of IU and having a virtual extended family of kindred spirits across the Interwebs gives me great joy and at times so much laughter I spit tea across the keyboard. I have actually pulled muscles from laughing. It’s much more entertaining to go to the chiropractor with a good story of how I hurt myself, rather than the usual snow-shoveling or long-car-ride excuse. I do like to be considerate of my healthcare professionals whenever possible. They want funny stories to tell people at parties, too.

So thank you to you all for supporting my writing, for sharing it with your friends, and for trusting me with your work and your words.

However 2012 has treated you, whether you’re gazing fondly in the rearview mirror or bidding it off with glee while saying, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out,” I hope 2013 is bursting with health, peace, love, happiness, and prosperity, in whatever form that means to you.

Onward!

Not So Little Women

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” -Louisa May Alcott

As a thirteen-year-old bookworm following in my feminist mother’s footsteps, I tossed aside white-gloved girl detective Nancy Drew and her ilk for pioneering female authors of an earlier age: the Victorians. The writing was lovely, but after plowing through a few of the classics, oh, how it rankled. Despite Jane Austen’s relatively high-minded Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice (even though she ended up with über-hot Mr. Darcy), it still bugged the pants off me that these women were so…dull. They played the piano and did needlepoint. They spent a mind-numbing amount of time fussing with their frocks, nattering on about dances, and waiting, all that WAITING, to be introduced to men who might make suitable matches, after which they would probably die in childbirth or become young widows married off to skeevy dudes old enough to be their fathers because everyone knew they could not possibly survive without a Y chromosome in the house.

Read the rest at Indies Unlimited…

Oooh, Shiny…

I don’t know about you, but I love a good bit of irony. Just last week, my friends and compadres at IndiesUnlimited.com were having an aerobic bit of discourse about the dreaded “G” word. No, not gorgonzola. Gatekeepers. And whether or not indie authors needed them in this crazy cowtown. I can see both sides of the issue, and I have great respect for my friends who say, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” So it was with a bit of a sociological eye that I submitted Drawing Breath – weeks before my post aired – on a tip from author J.L. Murray when GrubStreetReads.com offered a free promotion. Do I like shiny things? Yes. Do I like praise? Heck, yes. So when J.L. Murray, David Antrobus, and I were all endorsed, our lovely book covers on their home page all in a row, sure, I was moved. Do I think we NEED endorsements other than those lovingly offered by our readers? No. But better than the endorsement is what the Grub Street evaluator said about Drawing Breath:

“I loved this book! From the beginning the story drew me in and I couldn’t put it down,
even when I was crying so hard I couldn’t read. You have created a beautiful story that
explores innocence both for Caitlin and in my opinion Daniel as well.” -L.R.

Now that’s an endorsement!

Indies Unlimited: New Book Marketing Strategy

Press Release: INDIES UNLIMITED TO REVEAL NEW BOOK MARKETING STRATEGY

March 26, 2012; Phoenix, AZ – On April 1st, 2012 at 8 a.m. Pacific time, Indies Unlimited – the premier multi-national, multi-author web site for the Independent Publishing industry – will announce a new and innovative ‘reverse marketing’ book promotion tactic developed by founder Stephen Hise.

“Mr. Hise is an innovator and mastermind,” Indies Unlimited co-administrator K. S. Brooks said in a written statement. “This new method is definitely not for everyone, but I believe it could start a new trend in the marketplace. Indie book promotion will definitely be impacted, and quite frankly, may never be the same again. We’re looking forward to sharing Mr. Hise’s perspicacity with the industry.

”Stephen Hise founded IndiesUnlimited.com in October of 2011 to provide a platform for independent authors to share and exchange ideas, knowledge, expertise and frustrations; and, for readers and reviewers to become exposed to the amazing depth and array of talent in the indie community.

For more information, go to http://www.IndiesUnlimited.com

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Contact: K. S. Brooks
Co-Adminstrator
Indies Unlimited
ksbrooks@ksbrooks.com