This story got me thinking about secrets and the layers in our lives that can sometimes hide them from the ones closest to us. Not every one of our personal stories is known as well by others as it is known by our own minds, but what if there was a secret you could no longer keep? A secret that you didn’t want your family to know, but in the end, was so painful that you would reveal it to anyone?
That is what happened to Harriet, who was at the end of her life and was desperate to find forgiveness for a sin that was tormenting her cancer-filled mind. Harriet’s story is about forgiveness and grace, and the human capacity to come out on the other side of great tragedy and loss. Her story leaves me hopeful for peace-filled transition at the end of all of our journeys. Beautifully done.
NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month. By the time you see this post, I will have committed to writing a novel in the month of November. While I didn’t fully commit on their site, or to finishing my draft completely, I did decide to challenge myself and make some changes in my writing habits. NaNoWriMo is a grueling process and is not for the faint of heart. Here is what I learned about myself during the process, and I have to say, a couple of them surprised me.
Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month isn’t for everyone, and for the last few years, I fought against participating in NaNoWriMo because I felt the stress would be too high. I am happy to admit I was wrong, and that challenging myself to stick to a regular schedule, started me on a path of a wonderful new habit. I look forward to producing more books and continuing to keep my Muse happy in the future!
NaNoWriMo 2019…here I come! - DH (original post on www.saraybooksllc.com)
Author: D.A. Henneman
Genre: Magical Realism, Fantasy, Romance
First published: February 12, 2016
Strange things are happening to Brooke Fisher that causes her to question her sanity. Her hot coffee freezes, her hair turns green; and that’s just the beginning. Is the handsome man who has walked into her life the evil Shadowman she’s dreamed of, or her heart’s desire? Her conflicting emotions confuse her reality, just as they did during her childhood.
Will Engel feels an instant attraction to the beautiful bookstore clerk he meets while on vacation. As the connection turns into something deeper, he finds that he and Brooke are far from strangers and that their pasts are intertwined in a way that defies all logic. Unsure of his path, and questioning his part in Brooke’s destiny, he struggles to make sense of what is happening.
As the threat of the Shadowman grows stronger, Brooke realizes she must keep the mystical journal, which has found its way to her, away from him at all costs. What she finds in its pages not only confirms her destiny, but outlines a shift in power so great it will change her life, and Will’s…forever.
After two non-fiction books, I started working on a historical fiction mystery. Starting a new genre is like starting a new job. Some aspects of the work are the same, and some are very different. Since I have been working on my story for a couple of years and still have a lot of work to put into it, I felt like working on something new for a while. So I've decided to write a cozy mystery.
Cozy mysteries are not really like other mysteries. They are a little more light and breezy, and maybe even more "fun." Yet to create this "puzzle" of a story, I wanted a more detailed outline right from the beginning.
So, after reading several articles I put together an outline that I felt would be helpful to me. It includes adding background and features of setting, protagonist, antagonist and supporting characters. Since most cozy mysteries will be a series, some characters will appear in more than one book. This outline is divided into two parts. One that stays consistent with each story, and one part that will change for each book.
This is a new and exciting endeavor for me, and even putting together the outline was enjoyable. If you decide to start a cozy this outline may come in handy for you too! - LG
The Shadow of the Sun
By: Ryszard Kapuscinski
Africa - mysterious, exotic, unique - so far, an unrealized travel dream of mine. Friends who have been there rave mostly about the extraordinary experience of seeing animals, up close, in the wild, where they live. After reading “The Shadow of the Sun,” I see another Africa: the continent - its history and its struggles, and the people who have endured its heat, famine, disease, persecution and disfunction. Ryszard Kapuscinski was a journalist on assignment for Poland’s state newspaper when he began his African travels in 1957. He lived there for several years and returned frequently over the next 40. During that time, he witnessed the beginning of the end of colonial rule and its aftermath. In his words, “I traveled extensively, avoiding official routes, palaces, important personages, and high-level politics. Instead, I opted to hitch rides on passing trucks, wander with nomads through the desert, be the guest of peasants of the tropical savannah. Their life is endless toil, a torment they endure with astonishing patience and good humor. This is not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there – about encounters with them and time spent together.”
But I think Kapuscinski understates what we readers are treated to in this remarkable book. With each place he visits, each person he meets and spends time with, history comes to life. We learn about Ghana, Rwanda, Sudan, Zanzibar, Nigeria, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, Senegal, Liberia and more. We learn about the various tribes and clans and the effect of slavery on the way people think. We also learn how African culture and customs around hunger, thirst, time and thievery are dictated by its climate, geography, past and present. In one example related to time, Kapuscinski describes getting on a bus in Acra and the revelation that Africans and Europeans have an entirely different perception of time. He explains that for Europeans, “time exists outside man, exists objectively, and has measurable and linear characteristics. The European feels himself to be time’s slave, dependent on it, subject to it. To exist and function, he must observe its ironclad, inviolate laws, its inflexible principles and rules. He must heed deadlines, days, and hours.” For Africans, writes Kapuscinski, time “is a much looser concept, more open, elastic, subjective. It is man who influences time, its shape, course, and rhythm (man acting, of course, with the consent of gods and ancestors). Time is even something that man can create outright, for time is made manifest through events, and whether an event takes place or not depends, after all, on man alone.” Therefore, asking what time the bus will leave makes no sense to the African. The bus will leave when it is full; the meeting will begin when enough people show up; and the battle will begin when two armies start fighting.
The book is filled with insights like this. It is a treasure to share and one that can live on your bookshelf to read and reread. JB
I used to see
The future stretching out before me
An endless road
Adventures of mind and body
Places to stop and rest
No need to hurry
Plenty of time
To read all the classics
To write all the stories
To learn another language
To study history
To understand the unknown
To see the world
Now I see
A finite road
Unfamiliar twists and turns
No Triptik to guide me
A body that is worn
A mind slowing down
Senses that have dulled
But time enough
To understand more deeply
To appreciate other’s struggles
To connect more fully
To endure loss
To accept change
To love what I have
Asymmetry. A novel
Author: Lisa Halliday
Simon and Schuster, 2018
Asymmetry has been on several lists of Best Book in 2018. The most striking thing about the novel is the structure. Initially it appears to be three disconnected stories, each dealing with asymmetrical power structures, but somehow I felt that explanation was not enough. The first is the story of an affair between a very old famous writer (rumored to be modeled on Phillip Roth), and a young woman who wants to be a writer (something like the author). Throughout this story there are well-concealed clues as to the connection with the second story. Islamophobia is central to the second story of an Iraqi man dealing with the bureaucracy at Heathrow as he tries to pass through that airport on his way Istanbul. The final section again gives us clues as to how the three stories fit together to form a novel.
The Alice in Wonderland motif that opens the novel and carries it along is part of an attention to the relationship between texts. Where the original Alice saw no point in books without pictures, this Alice sees no point in books without quotation marks. It isn’t entirely clear to me on two readings what each of the sections taken from other books/novels tells us about this one, but that would be a fun project to work out.
And of course it is fun to solve the puzzle, and the writing carried me along pretty well. There are some wonderful images, as in the one where a train track ends suddenly, because it really isn’t going anywhere. That stands for the relationship between the young woman and the famous old writer.
From here, you could see all the way across the water to the North Fork, where the train from the city came to its slow, inexorable halt—its tracks ending abruptly, surrounded on three sides by grass, as though the men whose job it was to lay them down a century and a half earlier had looked up one day and saw they could go no farther…
At least one critic condemned the book for being overly concerned with form, as, he said, so many books of the twenty-first century appear to be. I agree that it is nice to read novels like Salvage the Bones, (Jesmyn Ward) where the form is not out in front of the story, though the language is gorgeous. Still, there is great pleasure in solving the mysteries in novels like this one and NW, Zadie Smith’s enjoyable/challenging novel. I’ll take some of each. - SQ
I thought it might be interesting to explain the process I continue to put my poor designer through. Although there are a ton of places out there that have pre-designed covers available for sale, I decided from the start not to go that route for my first few books. Partially because I knew that I would need the series to tie together visually, partially because I really love working collaboratively with my designer, but mainly because…well…I like to control things. It’s alright I’ve totally learned to embrace it!
There are many gifted artists out there and in no way am I saying that this process is the right way to go for everyone, especially since some of the grab and go covers out there are fabulous. But, this is what has worked for me so far, especially considering that these books are so near and dear to my heart and I had certain things in mind for the series from the start. It also allows me to navigate each piece of the process in order to better understand how it all works, which I feel is important when hiring outside services to help you with your projects. In order to understand the value of something you are paying for, you need to understand just what is involved. Now that I have my third book under my belt, I think I can finally say… by jove…I think I’ve got it! I break this process down into 4 basic categories: Theme, Content, Formatting & Final Proof.
Theme: So as I said for my series, there were elements that needed to be decided on from the start, and in this case, they were the actual elements…you know the symbols for Water, Air, Fire, Earth. In the very first book, I had to decide what they would look like, and how they would be represented, which gave the designer a little more work to do up front, but provided the blueprint for the graphics we would use in future books.
Once we had the symbols nailed down, the designer came up with a template to use that featured them on the cover and along the spine. This template will now be used for each book, but the colors, silhouettes and other visual content is varied depending on the story. For instance, in Sea of Dreams, the magick took the form of glowing light in Brooke and Will’s case, so it was added where their hands join. For Winds of Change, butterflies and winged creatures play a roll in Amie finding her power, so I felt it was important to include them on Book 2’s cover. For Playing with Fire, well... you get the picture.
Content: I start the process by finding inspirational images of the characters, models that I believe match the people I have created. I gather several and put them in a Word doc, including a link to where I found them, and item numbers if they are stock photos. I add text explaining what I liked about the picture, or how I think it could be used. I also send samples of covers I like from the genre I am writing in, which I find is a very helpful exercise. It gives a real good feel for the visuals being used in your particular corner of the writing world. Once I send the images to him (could be 22 pages by the time I’m done), we meet and whittle down the choices, discussing how the image could work, or what the limitations might be. We happen to be in the same area, but if you hire a designer that is some distance from you, you can always hold these meetings virtually which is just as effective.
At the same time, I also give him 4 quotes from my manuscript to use as marketing slides, as well as the completed blurb for the back cover. Once the images are decided on, he pulls together the cover, marketing slides and other visual aids, such as social media banners and profile images. The timing on this is typically a month or two before the launch of the book. That gives me time to start putting the images out there on social media and my blog.
Formatting: By the time the image files are complete, I have generally had my manuscript edited and polished. Once the final draft is sent, my designer continues to work on the formatting of the manuscript, putting in the fun things like drop caps and fancy flourishes. I still haven’t found the secret sauce to having them present in the digital copy, since the e-books are still a learning curve item that I am trying to sort out. In the meantime, I do my best with Word and the tools I have available to me through the vendors I upload the digital content to. They don’t always play nice with PDFs, so I work around it.
Final Proof: Once the final files are complete and sent to me, it is time to upload them and order a proof copy. I generally order a few, using one to do my final read through with my handy red pen and providing a few for the beta readers. Once I receive comments back and make adjustments, I am ready to upload the final version and announce it’s for sale! For more on my editing process, see: Preparing my #WIP for my Editor. At this time, I also order digital downloads on my Kindle and Nook, and double check how the digital book acts on the various devices. There are programs out there I will be trying for my next few projects, fingers crossed that they will do what I am looking for!
Even with all the reading and rereading, and the number of eyes that go through my text, there are bound to be errors or things that I forgot to include. I try to cut myself some slack and wait until I have a good enough number of corrections to make before updating the file into a Version 2. I always make note of them though, so if you ever find anything in one of my books, please be sure to drop me a line! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I find the easiest way to do this is to write in red pen directly in a print copy of my book.
Being part of the developmental process of my book from start to finish has been a huge learning experience, and if nothing else, makes me appreciate the massive amount of work that goes into bringing a book to life. My hats go off to all the authors out there who send their book babies out there for the world to read and enjoy! It is a satisfying, scary and surreal process, and it helps to know that there are writers just like me out there making it happen each and every day! Happy Writing! - DH
D. A. Henneman has created a world I didn’t want to leave when the pages were done. Playing with Fire is the third book in the series, The Power of Four. We meet Sera—a strong, powerful, intriguing woman who is an essential element in the fight against a growing evil. We adventure with her as she learns of a new world that was once invisible to her, see her realize her true nature, and watch her fall in love.
This story is a love story but it’s more than that. It’s a fantasy adventure with interesting creatures, magick, a unique plot, and engaging action. I highly recommend Henneman’s book and I look forward to the next one.
Author: Tara Westover
Review by: Judy Bobrow
Every once in a while, a true story surfaces about how someone overcomes the desperate obstacles brought about by child abuse and neglect to become a person of integrity and substance. The evidence of their survival flies in the face of everything we know about the impact of early life experience on who we become. One question is, “what is it that allows a person to rise above a terrible childhood? Is it something innate – some chemistry – like cream rising to the top? The second question is, “how do they do it?” In Tara Westover’s “Educated,” the “what is it?” remains a mystery. But the “how do they do it?” is laid out step-by-step through 323 pages of a gripping, often disturbing memoir.
Westover is one of seven children growing up in the mountains of Idaho. Her parents are survivalist who believe that the medical and educational establishments are not to be trusted. Only three of her siblings have birth certificates. Accidents and illnesses are treated at home by Westover’s mother, who is a midwife and herbalist. She also is responsible for the children’s formal education, which includes only rudimentary reading, writing and arithmetic. Historical events are never addressed so do not exist in the lives of the children.
“I had been educated in the rhythms of the mountains,” says Westover in the prologue to her book, “rhythms in which change was never fundamental, only cyclical. The same sun appeared each morning, swept over the valley and dropped behind the peak. The snows that fell in winter always melted in the spring. Our lives were a cycle - the cycle of the day, the cycle of the seasons - circles of perpetual change that, when complete, meant nothing had changed at all. I believed my family was a part of this immortal pattern, that we were in some sense, eternal. But eternity belonged only to the mountain.”
In equally beautiful prose, Westover takes us through her childhood: her desperate struggle to survive, to learn about the world outside of the mountain, to think for herself, and ultimately to balance love of family and comfort in the life she creates for herself. Sometimes painfully and sometimes exhilarating, Westover shows us how it is possible to become “Educated” despite all odds. JB
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