Category Archives: Book Review

Write Short First

So you want to be a writer? Are you planning on working on the book-length manuscript for as long as it takes? And then market it to agents for as long as it takes?

How about being published in the meantime? Nothing is better experience for the novelist or memoirist than writing and publishing short stories or personal essays along the way. If you don’t have what it takes to go through the process successfully with short pieces, what makes you think you can do it with a longer story? Additionally, earning bylines along the way may help get your first book published.

Windy Lynn Harris has written the definitive book to help you get started. Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published provides valuable guidance for crafting and fine-tuning those shorter pieces, as well as providing a step-by-step plan for getting published. This system includes finding markets, preparing your manuscript, and how to submit those pieces to magazines. She even gives pointers for how to deal with rejection, an inevitable part of every writer’s life.

After you follow the advice in this book, I suspect you will have acceptances, too, as Harris’ information is practical and grounded in the realities of the publishing industry. I suggest purchasing a paperback copy and keep it at hand and well-notated on your desk.

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I posted the above review for Windy‘s book on Amazon and Goodreads. But I’d like to expand on the idea of going short before going long. I know I’m going to step on some toes here. A huge number of writers go straight to writing book-length manuscripts. That’s great. They often self-publish and tend to learn from the experience and the books improve with practice. I’ve greatly enjoyed many books that developed from these origins.

But my philosophy is that the best way to learn craft is to start by writing short stories or essays and revising them until they shine. Then send them out and get some publications under your belt. While you are doing this read like crazy. Revise like crazy. Find experienced beta readers who aren’t crazy. I think this is what takes good stories and turns them into literature.

Don’t throw things at me now!

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Books, Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Literary Journals, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

John Howell’s My GRL and Other Stuff

I read John Howell’s adventure novel My GRL a month and a half ago, but was so busy with promo stuff for Kin Types that I didn’t get a chance to do much besides jot down some thoughts about the book. I’m taking a break now to write my review because his book deserves to be read!

Howell created a page-turning thriller. In the midst of the suspense, the most charming aspect of the story is that the protagonist John J. Cannon is an anti-hero. He’s a lawyer who has taken time off to move to a coastal Texas town and, although he knows very little about boating, buys himself a pretty good sized vessel he names My GRL. John is not necessarily the sharpest, most experienced, or courageous hero. But he’s likeable, the sort of guy you’d like to visit on his boat with a six-pack in your hand—if only it were a safe place.

But from the getgo, John and his boat are involved in a dangerous situation with some very shady characters.  It’s great fun to follow along for the ride. John gets himself into one hot spot after another, but eventually he’s gotten himself in so deep it doesn’t seem possible that he can escape. Has John become canny enough to vanquish such a mighty opponent? Once I hit the last third of the book, where suspense leads to fast-paced action, I couldn’t put it down.

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Reminder: writers not only love reviews, but need them to sell their books. Thank you so very very very much if you left one or more for Kin Types! If you read and enjoyed Kin Types and have not done so, please (Ima begging) swing over to Amazon and leave a review. (and/or Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and Finishing Line Press).

Verse Daily published one of my Kin Types poems a week ago. I was thrilled, to say the least. They publish one contemporary poem a day. Check them out and be sure to follow them on Twitter!

Perry is still living in his bedroom, but every day he spends several hours in the house with the rest of the cats. I am going very slowly because he loves his room and his privacy, but more importantly for two other reasons. One is that my other cats are old, and he’s very curious and wants to play (or in the case of Felix, to play fight with him), and they can’t handle more than four hours at this point. The biggest reason, though, is that Perry breathes SO heavily when he’s out with the cats. It’s kind of scary. I took him to the vet and had him checked out, paying them buckets of money. She had no answers except that his heart might be slightly enlarged and the next step COULD be an echocardiogram (more buckets). But we don’t have to rush into that at all. However, to be on the safe side, I don’t want him breathing like that all day long . . . .

That’s how Perry treats Felix. He treats the female cats much nicer. When they give him warning growls, he listens.

#amwriting: I’ve written two poems, peeps! Yay me!

Have a happy and productive week!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Fiction, Kin Types, Poetry Collection, Writing

Poetry Book Reviews: Goodwin and Swartwout

I’ve been doing some more reading again lately. Here are two poetry books that I swooned over.

In Caroline Goodwin’s new poetry collection, the elegiac The Paper Tree, language seeks to locate and identify. This is where and what, the poems seem to say. The mood can be mournful, commemorative, meditative.

Images from nature are seeds blown into the wind by the poet in an act of claiming. The urgent need of the poems, intense as it is, ebbs for a moment when hope soars for “a new kingdom . . . where the need to name the shape / does not even exist.” For now, the kingdom itself does not exist, but the glimpse of it has been noted.

Ultimately, the outward gestures of naming and sowing images lead to a necessary inwardness: “hold out your hands / open your heart / here’s where the world slides in.” The Paper Tree will present you the world if you open yourself to its wonders.

 

Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, Susan Swartwout’s latest poetry collection, finds the beauty and pathos in the oddities of life. Family history, carnival performance, time spent in Honduras—the subjects are varied, which further emphasizes that our lens can be adjusted to spot the strange and wonderful—or the pitiful—anywhere we look. The language is gutsy, the images sometimes grotesque and sometimes mystical. I found this collection impossible to put down, and poems like “Five Deceits of the Hand” where “we” are betrayed into aging and death thrilled me with jealousy.

Friends vanish like misplaced directions

into skies you used to claim. Age begins

sucking your bones until you lean shriveled

into the mouth of harvest.

In case you’re worried that the book ends on a dark or depressing note, the last word is salvation. I guess you’ll have to read the book to see if that means things work out ok or not.

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Maybe I finished my diamond poem (the one I mentioned in Typical Tuesday). Letting it rest right now.

I used #amwriting as a tag this week because I started looking through my memoir manuscript with an idea to restructuring it AGAIN. This is so insane. But look at it this way, what happens over many decades has to be structured in a way that is easy for the reader to follow and stay engaged. Most memoirs take place over a much briefer period of time (is briefer a word?), but the story I want to tell begins at least when I was 11, but truly long before I was born, and doesn’t end until this past decade. PULLING MY HAIR OUT.

Which reminds me that I wanted to share that Perry is in absolute love with his hairbrush. Yup. He hugs it.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing Talk

A Confession and a Book Review: Kin Types by Luanne Castle #bookreview #poetry

I am so grateful and humbled to have Kin Types reviewed by the wonderful book reviewer Marie!

1WriteWay

First, the confession: I’ve been away in body as well as in mind. For two years my husband had been planning this road trip. For one year, it’s been almost an obsession with him and then with me. And, into the mix, as if it weren’t enough to be planning and obsessing over a road trip, I started a course of study that might lead me to a “second career.” (See my previous post here.) Sometimes I think I purposely set up roadblocks to writing. Anyone else I know would have been blogging about this trip, before and during. But not me. No, I was discreet. Only those who had a need to know knew of our plans. Now I’m back to my hot, humid home and our three cats who have (yet again) proven that they are loyal to whose-ever hand that feeds them, be it my hand…

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Kin Types, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

Luanne Castle’s Kin Types

Jaye wrote an amazing review of Kin types. I am so grateful!

jayesbrain

When is a poem not a poem? When it’s a kin type, Kin (literally, one’s family or relations) type (a category of people or things having common characteristics). The reader doesn’t quite know what to expect when diving into Luanne Castle’s second poetry collection, Kin Types because it is immediate evident that this is not fiction, not poetry, not history nor prose. Kin Types is all of these things spun into a genre-bending volume of poems that demand to be read over and over again, for their plot and lyricism, and for their contribution to the preservation of times past for both one family and all families.

As a fan of Castles first award-winning book, Doll God, I was expecting more of the types of poems that cause one to pause, and reminisce; these poems provoke memory you didn’t even know you had. The kin in Kin Types are…

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Kin Types, Memoir, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

A Visit to Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Today

Welcome to the first of the update for authors in the Cafe and Bookstore this week and we have a full house… you might need a cup of coffee and a few minutes to enjoy. Our first author with news is Luanne Castle who is celebrating the release of her second book Kin Types. About […]

via Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – Luanne Castle, Teagan Riordain Geneviene, Chuck Jackson and Paul Cude — Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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Filed under Book promotion, Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Kin Types, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

You Should Probably Read This: Kin Types

If you read Merril’s blog you know that she’s a historian and a poet. Here’s Merril’s first reaction to KIN TYPES. (Thanks, Merril!)

Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

So–this arrived last night. I left it on the kitchen table, and I just started reading it–you know, leafing through it the way one does–and I got sucked in. I had to force myself to put it down because I have work to do. It is a powerful, lyrical mixture of poetry and prose, tragic accounts of everyday life–stories from her family history. Well, at least that’s what I’ve read so far. I’ll return for more in a bit.

OK, back to work now!

Luanne Castle is an award-winning poet. You can read more about her here.

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Filed under Book Review, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Kin Types, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

The Real Story of Tiny and Catharina

 

baby Tiny

Teeny Tiny: last summer

 

Remember Tiny the magpie? And the love of his life, Tina? And remember Catharina who patiently observed the pair and reported on their goings-on? Check out the story here if you missed that post.

After writing about Catharina and Tiny, I wondered what was going on with Tiny and Tina and would periodically email Catharina to find out.  You might have wondered yourself how they were faring.

Now you can read the whole story of Tiny and Tina and of Catharina, too, in Fly Wings, Fly High!.What you might not realize is that Catharina had a stroke (at quite a young age) and began her recovery around the time that young Tiny was trying to learn how to deal with his screwed-up wing.

MY REVIEW

Catherine Lind’s narrative about her recovery from a stroke is threaded with the story of a wild magpie Lind observes struggling to fly with a deformed wing. Tiny, as Lind names the bird that lives in her yard, works very hard at learning to fly. Lind is inspired as she watches Tiny for months as he keeps trying to fly–first a few feet, then from a little “jungle gym” Lind creates for him, and then to the apple tree to eat the fruit.

Lind finds that Tiny is ever hopeful and persistent. When he tries to land, he isn’t graceful and crashes over and over. Each time, he picks himself up and tries again. He is never downhearted, and he never gives up. But it’s not so easy for Lind who has always prided herself on her skill with words. They are her livelihood and her portal to the world. When the stroke knocks out half her vocabulary in both English and Swedish, she can only communicate by speaking a combination of both languages. Sometimes it seems as if she will never recover.

Watching Tiny’s determination and good spirits, Lind decides to follow his lead and work intensely on her skills by singing, hand exercises, and eventually, telling elaborate stories aloud about Tiny and his life. Reading Fly Wings, Fly High! taught me a great deal about what it is like to experience a stroke, and I was comforted and intrigued by the extraordinary tale of Tiny, whose influence on Lind’s life has been enormous. My life has been enriched by reading this charming story told by a very talented storyteller.

MORE INFO

Catharina’s book is short, like a novella—either a very short novel or a long short story. It’s available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

I so enjoyed the loving detail of the natural world and the animals found within. When I was a kid I loved books that paid attention to this world (Gene Stratton Porter and Louisa May Alcott both managed this accomplishment at times), but I’ve moved away from it as an adult. What a wonderful experience to inhabit that world again.

Additionally, learning about the effects of a stroke from the inside out was fascinating; I’ve never read anything quite like Catharina’s experience.

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Yesterday I washed sweet Perry’s bedding and a hairball fell onto the floor. It had WORMS coming out of it. Right after we began fostering him I took his poo to the vet and paid $ to have it tested at the lab. Must have been at a certain point in the life cycle where it doesn’t show up because this hairball is just jammed with worms. I am being so nice to you not to show it to you. Heh. My stomach is still heaving a little. But imagine how bad his tummy has hurt all this time!

I did work on the galleys for Kin Types. That was fun, but a little difficult with my cataracts. Sigh.

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Filed under Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Family history, Inspiration, Kin Types, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Reading, Writing, Writing Talk

How Do I Feel At “The End”?

Generally I am a fan of lyrical memoir and lyrical poetry. Give me metaphors and gorgeous descriptions. Give me something to admire in the way words bounce  off each other and give me a sense of the glorious art of language.

This is not Becky Galli’s memoir. Rethinking Possible, Rebecca Faye Smith Galli’s memoir, is told in a voice that is hers: direct, focused, prepared, smart, communicative, tough, and with a spark of humor.

Becky’s memoir is a must read. Becky’s memoir touched my heart, and I have a hard time writing about it. It’s not like writing about a beautiful artful book. It’s writing about someone’s heart and soul right out there on paper.

Becky’s memoir will be going to film. I wonder who will play Becky.

Becky is a competitive type-A personality, driven to be perfect and nearly reaching it. But God has other plans for her life than what she has envisioned or set up in her personal PowerPoint presentation (metaphor).

In literature, I have never seen a person’s life so beset by one tragedy after another, except in war literature. And yet Becky was prepared for this—prepared by the best. Her pastor father was a marvelous mentor to other pastors, a newspaper columnist, and a clear thinker. He shielded Becky throughout her  upbringing with the strength of his wonderful advice.

That’s why, when I turned the page and encountered a chapter entitled “Farewell to My Father,” I burst completely and utterly into tears. I’m sure the gardener thought I had lost it as he was watching TV nearby.

I could provide you the litany of losses in Becky’s life, but really, what is the point. Please, in this one case at least, take my word for it and read the book.

I travelled through the darkest days with Becky in this book and at the end I am not sad. Amazed, certainly. Gobsmacked, for sure. I am not sad because watching how Becky’s family was transformed has left me in awe of what family is and can be.

I can’t write about this book without tearing up, but I also can’t wait to see that movie when it eventually happens!

 

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Filed under Book promotion, Book Review, Books, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Memoir

Goodreads No Social Media Time Suck

Are you a reader? I suspect if you’re a blog reader then you do consider yourself to be a reader.

And if you’re a reader, are you on Goodreads? If you are, great. If you haven’t done so already, FRIEND me here:

Then read the list below and tell me what else I missed that Goodreads offers to readers.

If you’re not yet on Goodreads, let me tell you what I like about it. It can be a very social media. You can choose to join lots of groups and chat about all kinds of books and book issues.  If you don’t find the group you want, you can create and moderate one.

But if you don’t want to be that social, you can choose your comfort level—anywhere from social butterfly to recluse.

What else can you do on Goodreads

  • When you hear about a book you want to read in the future, you can add it to your to-read list.
  • Your own personal reading lists will keep you organized. At any time, you can look up what you have already read and see which books you are “currently reading,” but have forgotten about (I’ve misplaced the book or forgotten I was in the middle of one on Kindle—don’t ask). Organization can be by genre.
  • Book reviews by other Goodreads readers will give you an idea if you want to read a book or not.
  • Your own book reviews will remind you later of what you liked or didn’t like—and allow you to interact with others about any book you choose. They will also reward a writer whose book you really appreciated. If you already leave book reviews on Amazon, you can post the exact same review both places.
  • Friends will send you book recommendations.
  • Take a reading challenge.
  • Follow your favorite blogs through Goodreads.
  • When you’re busy, you can just ignore Goodreads; it won’t mind.
  • Book giveaways are super easy to enter, and you have a good chance of winning. How do I know? I have won!
  • You can follow or friend writers and correspond with them through public questions or personal messages.
  • Occasionally there are book-related gigs available.
  • Need a quote? Find them here.
  • Quizzes, author pages, and creative writing opportunities are on Goodreads.

Those of you already on the site, what do you like best about Goodreads?

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Kin Types had an original release date of June 23, 2017, but I got an email from the publisher. They are running five weeks behind. So don’t look for your copy until the end of July or first week of August! I’m so sorry for the delay. !@#$%^&*()

In the better news category, Doll God was reviewed by an academic critic in a print journal Pleiades Book Review 14:2.

Christine Butterworth-McDermott:  “Dolls, Freaks, Art: American Poets Creating a New Mythology.”

Butterworth-McDermott’s article is a feminist reading of Doll God. I love how she connected with the doll and fairy tale poems in the book. She also reviews two other books, by Susan Swartwout and Denise Alvarez, in the same piece. At the end, she says, “Readers should read and reread the works of Castle, Swartwout, and Alvarez, finding new ways of looking at the world each time.”

Since I haven’t been writing lately I started Diane Lockward’s poetry craft book, The Crafty Poet III am writing a few very rough drafts based on exercises in the book. It’s a good way to get started again.

I like my books and flowers in large quantity!

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Review, Books, Kin Types, Publishing, Reading, Writing