Monday, November 28, 2016

Musing Mondays - Nov 28

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme now hosted at Jenn's blog Books And A Beat that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

Did you catch it? I swear we just blinked and November is gone. Here we are on the last Monday of the month--Cyber Monday, no less. Any great deals you plan to scoop up?

Right now I am preparing for my virtual book tour for Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving. It starts December 5. You can find my book tour schedule here.

Check out this great book I borrowed from the library last week:

In her fifteen years of teaching, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has found that the biggest stumbling block for aspiring writers (especially women) is not fear of the blank page but frustration with the lack of time. What woman doesn't have too much to do and too little time? Finding an hour free of work, children, or obligations can seem impossible.

But anyone can find fifteen minutes, whether you're sitting in traffic, waiting at a child's soccer practice, or watching the coffee drip. DeMarco-Barrett has created a practical, inspirational guide for fitting serious writing into those stolen moments. She offers writing exercises and techniques for generating ideas, as well as pragmatic advice from the well-known authors who appear on her radio show. With fifteen minutes a day, she can help you to ignite your pen and become the writer you have always wanted to be.

With all the thrill of the book launch, I realized I miss writing terribly. My goal for 2017 is to write a little something each week. Do you set goals? Are you ready to contemplate goals for 2017 yet?

I'm just starting a new book that I promised to review:

Quense published four books on self-publishing. He has now complied them into one complete self-publishing guide, which allows you to purchase them cheaper than if you bought them all separately. 

The goal of self-publishing a book is to produce a quality book package to hold your content. Despite what you read on the internet, self-publishing isn’t easy. There is a lot involved in understanding the self-publishing process and it is quite easy to self-publish a book the wrong way
This boxed set of ebooks explains the self-publishing process and much more.
There are four ebooks in the set.
* Self-publishing a Book: describes a process to get a book published.
* Marketing Plans for Self-published Books: covers basic book marketing strategy and tactics.
* Manage Your Self-publishing Project: Uses a project management approach to graphically illustrate the dual, simultaneous processes of publishing and marketing your book.
* Business Basics for Authors: provides an understanding of the business issues facing new authors.
The boxed set provides the new author with a solid grounding in the self-publishing process and associated issues.
Yet another potential problem is this. The internet swarms with scam artists searching for new authors who may not have a complete understanding of the ins-and-outs of publishing and marketing. The scammers are after the author’s money and use slick websites to mislead the author. The more the new author knows about publishing and marketing, the less likely he is to fall prey to these scam artists.
The Complete Self-publishing Guides boxed set is much less expensive than buying the four books individually.

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: If you were a character, which author would you trust with your life (to write your story)?

Oh, this is such a tough question. Can you ever really trust another person to tell your story in a way that would make you 100% happy? Undoubtedly, their bias or world view could influence their portrayal.

My first choice would be a deceased author--Laura Ingalls Wilder. She inspires my writing for children and was successful in chronicling her own  life.

For a second choice, I would like Kathi Macias. I've loved her work for years. I met her through my work with Pump Up Your Book. I coordinated virtual book tours for several of her books. We haven't been in touch as much as I would like since I've been working in real estate, but my bookshelves are home to several of her books and I hope to read her new Christmas story soon.

How about you? Who would you trust to write the story of your life?

Hope you have a great week!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Book Spotlight: On Top of the World by David Lamb

We're happy to host David Lamb's ON TOP OF THE WORLD (UNTIL THE BELL CHIMES) virtual book tour today!  Please leave a comment or question for David to let him know you stopped by!


Author: David Lamb

Publisher: Woolly Mammoth Books

Pages: 240

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Contemporary

Purchase Information:

| iTunes
| B&N

2016 BEST FICTION-Pacific Book Awards. 

FROM THE FUNNY AND NATURALLY BRILLIANT DAVID LAMB, award-winning playwright of the New York Times celebrated play, Platanos Y Collard Greens, comes a modern spin on Dickens' classic tale that perfectly combines humor and romance in a story re-imagined for our digital, consumerist age. This version of Scrooge and Belle is familiar, yet unlike any you've come across before. Scrooge, or rather Scrooje, is music's biggest superstar, with one hundred million albums sold, fifteen million devoted YouTube subscribers, two and a half million Facebook likes, and twenty-five million fanatical Twitter followers known as Scroojites. Belle, is a legal shark who gulps down her opposition voraciously and whose beauty and stunning figure causes traffic accidents as she zips through the sidewalks of Manhattan stylishly adorned and taking no prisoners. They never imagined being music's most powerful couple, but that's exactly what happened when Belle fell head over heels and gave the Coke-bottle glasses wearing, plaid and stripe attired, scrawny, biggest nerd on her college campus the ultimate makeover, turning him into a fashion impresario whose style sets trends from Milan to NY Fashion Week and who can be seen courtside at the NBA Finals sporting a perfectly-fitted cashmere suit. Then it happens. Belle realizes too late that she's created a chart-topping monster as Scrooje's ego explodes and he starts acting a fool. Now, it's been three years since they ve spoken. But tonight at Hollywood s biggest red carpet event, with the whole world watching, they'll be given a second chance. Will Scrooje listen to the ghostly-advice of Marley, his best friend since the fourth grade, who at the time of his untimely drowning at his Brazilian poolside birthday bash was as big a star as Scrooje? Will Scrooje finally do right by his number one artist, Cratchit, a genius comedian, who Scrooje invariably rip offs every chance he gets? And with twenty-five million viewers tuned in will Scrooje finally shed his ego, jeopardize his image and declare his love for Belle, the one he betrayed and let slip away? Second chances don't often come around. Will Belle even give him a chance? Mixing heart, soul, bling and romance in a fresh, original satire about race, class and celebrity worship Lamb establishes himself as one of the most talented and amazing writers today. And leaves no doubt that the Pacific Book Awards chose wisely when they selected On Top Of The World as the year's Best Fiction.

Book Excerpt:

The devil doesnt wear Prada, he wears Sean John and I was the idiot who taught him how to shop.
That was what I got for reading Frankenstein in college. Id been turned into a mad scientist without even realizing it. Just my luck, I was a math major and the one literature course I took had tricked me into creating a monster.
When I first met Scrooʝe, helike most humans with XY chromosomeswas a fashion emergency. Awkwardly walking around campuslost, desperately in need of a haircut, and for some strange reason wearing glasses so big he looked like an owl hunting for prey. He was just plain pitiful.
But I have to confess, from the moment I saw him my heart sang a happy song and I couldnt look away. Something between us was magnetic.
Hey, what can I say, I was always the kind of girl who liked rescue projects. When I was eight years old, I turned my familys garage into a makeshift animal shelter, and damn near gave my father a heart attack when a hungry pack of strays rushed at him as he pulled into the driveway.
So naturally, one look into Scrooʝes sad puppy dog eyes and I felt right awayhe was the one.
Before I knew it, we were college sweethearts and best friends. Of course, I had to clean him up, but after a few months under my tutelage everyone noticed his transformation. They saw that with his gorgeous toffee skin, deliciously full lips and sexy broad shoulders he was the cutest boy on campus.  Pretty soon I had girls telling me I needed to start a makeover service.
That was how it all started. Who could have known that a simple makeover would unleash the devilish genius of the sweetest, shyest, most socially awkward boy Id ever met, and transform him into musics biggest superstar with an ego the size of Texas yet more fragile than an egg yolk? And a whole lot messier! Not me.
Without a doubt weve traveled a long crazy road together. Scrooʝe was the first boy I gave my heart to. Our relationship went from me rescuing him in college, to him rescuing me in law school, to our emergence as musics power couple. He was the artist/entrepreneur, and I was the best lawyer love could buy.
And now, were strangers. Its been three years since weve seen or spoken to each other, and sometimes, against my better judgment, I find myself thinking about him and feel a smile creep across my face. 
This morning was one of those times when my thoughts turned to Scrooʝe. Normally Id tell myself off for not letting go, but today I gave myself a break. After all, it isnt every day that you might not just run into your ex, but do it live on television at Hollywoods biggest event.
“Everything’s gonna be fine, girl,” I told myself as I contemplated everything that could go wrong if we ran into each other at The Awards. I was especially dreading an untimely re-emergence of my long-standing klutz curse.
My whole life, Id been jinxed with inopportune clumsiness. As the ring girl at my parentsvow renewal, I stumbled, fell in the grass, and lost the rings. As a tiny ballerina, I was the best in my class, until the day of the recital when I went tumbling down like Humpty Dumpty.
Now with the whole world watching, I simply could not afford such an embarrassing spill.
As I sat in the back of a sleek limousine on my way to the ceremony, gazing up at the L.A. skyline, nervously checking my hair in the mirror for the dozenth time in half a dozen minutes, I tried to push down the queasiness threatening to erupt from the pit of my stomach. The last thing I needed was to step onto the red carpet covered in this afternoons lunch. The paparazzi would surely have a field day with that one.
Well, like I said it was exactly three years to the day that I stomped out of Scrooʝes life, but tonight we were both nominated for Awards. I knew God worked in mysterious ways, but now I was convinced she also had a sense of humor.
I never thought Id be nominated for anything, but life had other plans. After we broke up, I quickly discovered that the best cure for PTRS—post-traumatic-relationship-stress—was writing. By the time I finished hammering those computer keys, I was author of an award-winning, best-selling, drama-filled, tragically comic novel that Hollywood just had to have. Now here I was nominated for an Award as one of the producers of the years biggest movie.
Once word got out that I was nominated, I was immediately blessed (or cursed depending on your view) with a merry-go-round of opinions. From my hair to my makeup to my shoes to my dress, from my eyebrows to my voice, to making sure I didnt have ashy kneeseveryone had an opinion. Normally I was unflappable, but with so many people giving so many conflicting opinions I was suddenly a nervous wreck. Finally, I stopped answering the phone because I couldnt take any more unsolicited advice. If someone did manage to reach me on the phone, before they could even say a word Id say, No, I dont know what Im going to wear, and no, I dont know how Im doing my hair,before abruptly clicking off.
          Unbelievable, Russell Simmons can show up without a tie and wearing sneakers, yet still be a style icon. But let a woman have one eyelash out of place and it
ll be the lead on the evening news.
Two nights before The Awards, I tried to veg out with an episode of Soccer Moms From Hell. But before I could lose myself in the drama, my cell phone buzzed with a text. Oh, come on!I yelled, throwing my hands up unnecessarily dramatically. Then I looked at it. It was from my father. He wrote simplyBe you.
At least there was one man in the world I could still count on. Two days later, on my way to The Awards I tried to wrap my head around the idea that Id soon be standing on the stage with millions watching. This was not part of the plan. I was a behind-the-scenes kind of gal, not at all attracted to the limelight. So, as I pulled up to The Awards, my nerves fluttered in my stomach like butterflies. But despite my anxiety, when I last checked the mirror I didnt look too shabby. Thank God, Michelle Obama isn’t the only one who looks perfect in a Carolina Herrera gown.
As I climbed out of the limo and walked the red carpet, waving at the crowd gathered to cheer on their favorite artists, I thought about everything that had led up to this moment and even though I was anxious on the inside, on the outside I smiled as if I werent the least bit concerned all while praying for two thingsplease, dont let me fall in front of all these people, and please, please, dont let me run into Scrooʝe.
  About the Author


David Lamb is a native New Yorker, born and raised, bitten with the writing bug since he was in elementary school and had handwriting nobody could decipher. Like Charles Dickens, David grew up a poor boy in the big city who found that the pen really is mightier than the sword. In middle school Lamb’s hero was David Lampel whose velvet voice could be heard reporting the news over David’s grandmother’s radio. Whenever he heard him on the radio, David would substitute Lamb for Lampel and pretend he was delivering the news. Sure that he was destined to be a famous reporter David was happy to go to a high school with a journalism program. Like most kids, by the time he finished high school he had a whole new career in mind. After high school he went to Hunter College and majored in Economics because he wanted to be cool like that college kid who came to speak at his last year of high school. He was an Economics major, he was dressed sharp and above-all the girls thought he was the man! So like any unreasonable high school boy fueled by overactive hormones David figured if he majored in Economics they’d think he was cool. After finishing college David went on to law school at NYU, but all the time writing was still his heart. While working as a lawyer by day, at night he transformed into a writer and eventually wrote and produced the award-winning hit off-Broadway romantic comedy Platanos Y Collard Greens. Being a writer and having the chance make people laugh out loud while challenging them to think about the world around them, and inspire each of us to believe in the power of love and our own ability to overcome life’s challenges is a great gift that David truly enjoys and thanks you for allowing him to share with you in On Top Of The World (Until The Bell Chimes).



Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: The Ghostwriters by Mickey J. Corrigan

With The Ghostwriters, Mickey J. Corrigan delivers a bold and edgy psychological drama that pulls you in whether you want it to or not.

Jacy McMasters is a struggling writer living in Manhattan who wastes her time on cheap booze and toxic men. Then the ghost of JD Balinger arrives asking her to "channel" a follow-up to his classic coming of age book, The Watcher in the Sky. As they work together, the ghost forces her to confront the dark secrets she has done her best to conceal and hide from.

I'll be honest: if I had written a first chapter review of this novel, my thoughts would have been very different back then than they are now. I'm not sure I would have continued. I'm not a fan of toxic relationships, self-destructive people, or books filled with the F-word. The Ghostwriters has all three. I'm truly glad I stuck with it, however, because once I was engaged, I was fully engaged until the very end.

The Ghostwriters delves deep into the mind of a young woman being destroyed by a lifetime of secrets she has done her best to shut out. It's rough ground that she treads, and the reader treads it right along with Jacy in all its ugliness. The psychology of childhood relationships, parent/child relationships, and true hardship is in the forefront of this novel.

Corrigan's strength lies in her ability to create complex characters. Even Firth, who is a real sweetheart, has his horrible temper to deal with. No one is perfect.

This is stated to be a thriller--which if judging by the sheer pace of the novel, it qualifies--but I truly see it as a drama because of the depth into which we explore Jacy's mind and how these secrets have nearly destroyed her. For the reader, there is a mystery about Jacy's reality.

Despite the fact that I figured out where the plot was headed before it was revealed, I still needed to know all the gritty details. I hung in and found a satisfying ending. I would definitely read more of this author's work.

Paperback: 194 pages
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc. (September 2, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1509209255
ISBN-13: 978-1509209255

I received a free paperback copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

I read this book for the following challenge:

Book Spotlight: Sorrows & Songs by Janice Wood Wetzel

In words as clear and sharp as cut crystal glass, the memoir Sorrows & Songs: One Lifetime – Many Lives unflinchingly tells the story of a bright, beautiful, and promising young child who forged towards a fully realized life in spite of years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her parents and pervasive society-wide gender discrimination.

Through her account, Janice Wood Wetzel shares a range of experiences in the context of her life and times – a Depression-era childhood, World War II, a teen pregnancy and miscarriage, a 20-year marriage that produced three much loved children but ultimately ended in divorce in her late 30s, the numbing social conformity that informed the ‘50s and early ‘60s, a mental health crisis in the form of depression, a stint in a psychiatric hospital, the suicide of her father, and soon thereafter, the tragic death of her mother, and a bout with alcoholism. Finally, the mid-1960s brought hope in the form of second-wave feminism, which enlightened the world and consequently changed the author’s life.

One by one, through quiet acts of bravery, Janice Wood Wetzel broke through sexist obstacles and emerged as a civil rights pioneer, a recognized feminist and human rights researcher, strategist, and advocate, as well as a United Nations nongovernmental representative, and a highly regarded professor and Dean of Social Work.

A successful life, yes. But at a price. From a painful crucible of dreams deferred and loves lost emerged both a life of many victories and a rewarding memoir.

Pages: 255
ISBN: 978-0-9968-3010-2
Available in Paperback $14.95 at
Available as an eBook $6.99 on Amazon / / Kobo / iTunes

Janice Wood Wetzel is a professor emerita and former dean of social work who has served as a United Nations nongovernmental representative in New York since 1988. She is a well-published international educator and researcher who specializes in the human rights, mental health, and advancement of women from a global perspective. The mother of three and grandmother of four, Janice has lived all over the United States. For the past 27 years, her home has been on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Musing Mondays - Nov 21

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme now hosted at Jenn's blog Books And A Beat that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

Happy Monday! Can't believe it is almost Thanksgiving. There's a lot going on around here.

Copies of my latest book, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving arrived via UPS. The book is currently available at:

If you would like a free review copy, please visit my virtual book tour page at where you can leave a message for Dorothy, or you can feel free to leave a comment with your email address on this post and I'll forward it to her. 

Thanksgiving is at our place again this year, so I'm working to get the house ready for guests. This week we are also preparing for Living Gate Community Church's Annual Christmas Bazaar and Tag Sale. This event takes place on Saturday, November 26 and features a bake sale, raffle prizes, gift items, a large tag sale, and a great lunch for a small fee. We are located at 151 Taylor Street in Granby, MA. Doors open at 9 am if you would like to stop by.

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Are there any particular worlds in books in which you’d like to live?

This is such an interesting question. There are places I would like to visit: Colonial America, post-Civil War America (Reconstruction Era), Anne Shirley's Prince Edward Island, and modern day France or England. Have to admit, though, that I wouldn't want to live anywhere in any other time period than where I do now. 

How about you? Any place you would be willing to plant roots out of places you've read about?

Hope everyone has a great week. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Blast and Giveaway: Death at First Sight by Lena Gregory

We're happy to present to you Lena Gregory's DEATH AT FIRST SIGHT Book Blast today! Lena is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Enter below!

Title: Death at First Sight

Author: Lena Gregory

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 304

Genre: Cozy Mystery

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that something’s not right on Bay Island...

Since she left her psychiatric practice in New York City to open up a psychic shop in her hometown on Bay Island, Cass Donovan has given her fair share of readings to conflicted customers. But what she sees in Ellie Callahan’s future doesn’t bode well.

When Ellie’s mother, Marge, publicly confronts Cass about the reading, the embarrassment makes her want to curl up and die. And when she later stumbles across Marge’s body—and is a suspect in her murder—Cass is suddenly the star of Bay Island’s rumor mill.

Cass is determined to prove her innocence and save Ellie from meeting the fate in her unfortunate vision. But even with the help of her friends Bee and Stephanie, Cass will have to channel some serious sleuthing instincts to find the real killer...

| Barnes
& Noble

Book Excerpt:

Cass sucked in a breath, the gasp audible in the silence of the small room. Oh no . . . The walls pressed in on her, loomed over her, threatened to suffocate her. This cant be
happening again.

Is everything all right?

Umm . . . sure. Darkness encroached, tunneling her vision. She forced it back, counted to ten, took deep breathsanything to fight back the blackness. She struggled against the urge to push the glass ball away from her. Sorry. I must have zoned out for a minute.She averted her gaze, hoping the other woman wouldnt catch the lie.

The womans eyebrows drew together, a frown creasing her forehead.

Are you sure you didnt see anything bad?Cass forced a laugh as she shoved her chair back, stood, and moved away from the table. Of course not. I told you

I would only allow good spirits to enter.Liar.

About the Author

Lena Gregory lives in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island with her husband and
three children.

When she was growing up, she spent many lazy afternoons on the beach, in the yard, anywhere she could find to curl up with a good book. She loves reading as much now as she did then, but she now enjoys the added pleasure of creating her own stories.


* * *

Lena Gregory
is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • This giveaway ends midnight November 30.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on December 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Guest Blogger: Jane Marlow, Author of Who Is to Blame

Jane Marlow’s debut novel is a beautifully written historical saga of two families—one born of noble heritage and the other bound as serfs to the noble’s household. Set during the mid-1800s in the vast grainfields of Russia, Who Is to Blame? follows the lives of two star-crossed serfs, Elizaveta and Feodor, torn apart by their own families and the Church while simultaneously trapped in the inhumane life of poverty to which they were born.

At the other end of the spectrum, Count Maximov and his family struggle to maintain harmony amidst a tapestry of deception and debauchery woven by the Count’s son. The plot twists further when the Tsar emancipates twenty million serfs from bondage as the rural gentry’s life of privilege and carelessness has taken its final bow, while much of Russia’s nobility faces possible financial ruin.

Aficionados of historical fiction will be captivated by the lyrical flow of Marlow’s intertwining stories of love, loss, courage, and pain against her backdrop of social upheaval. The novel’s riddles flow subtly throughout, spurring readers to ponder where the blame actually lies. In the end, we must tap into our own hearts to navigate the depths and quandaries of the author’s perplexing question.


The excellent suggestion for this post’s topic came from Cheryl at The Book Connection. Downton Abbey made a colossal splash when it juxtaposed the lifestyle and adversities of the upper and lower British classes. The same contrast is portrayed in my novel, Who Is to Blame? A Russian Riddle, except my setting was rural 19th century Russia. It was a gratifying challenge for me to find techniques that would highlight the similarities and the disparities of the estate-owning Russian gentry and the serfs (peasants) that tilled their fields, cleaned their manor houses, and distilled their vodka.

First, I chose dignified names for the nobility that incorporated the 1) given name, 2) patronymic name, and 3) family name. An example is Anton Stepanovich Maximov. For most of the peasants, I selected simple diminutive names such as Pasha and Katya.

Ditto for their basic word usage and conversations. The peasants had no formal education whatsoever and, therefore, spoke with short words and poor grammar. Their discussion topics reached no further than the surrounding grainfields. On the other hand, the nobility’s multisyllabic words sometimes bordered on verbose, particularly when fulminating against Tsar Alexander’s Great Reforms.

Readers of Who Is to Blame? might notice the back-to-back positioning of scenes that underscores the differences in moral code and social conduct of the well-healed versus the indigent. For instance, a scene of serf family violence draws upon the peasant credo that wife-beating is a way of life. The next scene opens with persnickety etiquette lessons for the gentry children.

In another literary device, serfs are temporarily placed in the gentry’s environment. For instance, a teenage serf is befuddled when she sees the Count blow his nose into a square piece of cloth, which he then returned to his pocket. Why not simply blow the snot onto the ground? This writing technique also served a second purpose – to add a touch of humor to a heavy-weight story.

Woven between the disparities are the similarities that span the spectrum of all social classes. Nurturing children. The ravages of pandemic disease. Shattered dreams. The bond between lovers. The futility of trying to outwit Mother Nature. The yearning for a brighter tomorrow.

My sincere hope is that Who Is to Blame? is an eye-opener regarding the 1861 emancipation of the serfs as well as the final bow of the rural gentry’s life of privilege. Let me know if I succeeded.

Warmest regards and well wishes for a future full of thought-provoking books!
Jane Marlow

Who Is to Blame? A Russian Riddle
301 pages
Publisher: River Grove Books, October 18, 2016

Available in soft cover and ebook.
Audible version soon to be released. Check for updates.

Local bookstores – if not in stock, ask them to order it


Barnes & Noble

Google Play Books


About the Author:

When not working at her bill-paying job, Jane Marlow penned the first version of Who Is to Blame?. Over the next 18 years, her stack of rejection letters from publishers grew taller than the empty wine bottle sitting next to it. After a jillion revisions, voila! A publishable manuscript.

Jane Marlow’s writing reflects change over time. Changes in the world around us. Changes within ourselves. Her characters, like each of us, have the choice of rolling with life’s punches, or curling into a ball, or gulping in a deep breath and building a stronger, more resilient person.

In addition to working on a sequel, Jane has put together a free e-newsletter for anyone who wants to delve deeper into the culture and history of Russia (a country truly like no other). Chockful of Russian riddles, proverbs, artwork, and tidbits of 19th century life, the 6-times-a-year newsletter is designed for inquisitive people who prefer to chuckle while they learn. The Nov-Dec 2016 edition can be viewed at here: ( Sign up at ( No spam or sales gimmicks. Never. Ever.

Jane uses Skype or speaker phones to meet long-distance with book clubs and reading groups. Want more info? Email ( )

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: The Journal Project by Susan Lerner

Have you ever struggled to recall a funny family story? Have you ever lost a loved one and thought: I wish I could talk to him one last time. There is so much I would askThe Journal Project: Capturing the Magic of Family Life Through Stories by Susan Lerner might just be the encouragement you need to get started.

In this booklet, Lerner shares the benefits of writing down ordinary life events, how stories differ from photos and videos, the writing process and more. The reality is that we all probably wish we captured more memories of our children growing up, our loved ones before they passed, and even thoughts about ourselves. If you've been contemplating starting a journal or have a family member or friend wishing to start one, The Journal Project will help put things in motion.

What I really enjoy about this book is that it provides a good amount of information, but is easily read in one sitting. I've put it on the reference shelf in my office to refer to later because there are some neat resources at the end of the book.

Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: on the edge books (October 4, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0975285394
ISBN-13: 978-0975285398

I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

I read this book for the following challenge:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Interview with Mark Connelly, Author of Wanna-be's

Mark Connelly was born in Philadelphia and grew up in New Jersey. He received a BA in English from Carroll College in Wisconsin and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His books include The Diminished Self: Orwell and the Loss of Freedom, Orwell and Gissing, Deadly Closets: The Fiction of Charles Jackson, and The IRA on Film and Television. His fiction has appeared in The Ledge, Indiana Review, Cream City Review, Milwaukee Magazine, and Home Planet News. In 2014 he received an Editor’s Choice Award in The Carve’s Raymond Carver Short Story Contest; in 2015 he received Third Place in Red Savina Review’s Albert Camus Prize for Short Fiction. His novella Fifteen Minutes received the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize and was published by Texas Review Press in 2005.

Connect with Mark on Facebook and Twitter.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I have been teaching college English and writing books for thirty years. I have published college textbooks and written books about George Orwell, Saul Bellow, and the Irish Republican Army. My short stories have appeared in Indiana Review, Cream City Review, The Ledge, Home Planet News, and Digital Papercut. In 2014 I received an Editor’s Choice Award in Carve Magazine’s Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. In 2015 I received Third Place in Red Savina Review’s Albert Camus Prize for Short Fiction. In 2005 Texas Review Press published my novella Fifteen Minutes, which received the Clay Reynolds Award.

Where did you grow up?

South Jersey and later North Jersey.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

Reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “Block City.” Unlike other poems and stories, it was interactive. I, too, had blocks and saw that like the poet I could use the sofa for mountains and the carpet for the sea. Following the lines in the poems, I used my blocks to make a castle. That day made a connection between reading and reality that stuck with me.

When did you begin writing?

I started writing poems and stories in high school and began getting works published in college in various literary quarterlies and small magazines. Duquesne University Press published my dissertation about George Orwell, and I have published other books of literary criticism. Fiction remains my first love, and I am working on several novels.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I write first thing in the morning when I am fresh. Later in the day I read, conduct research, answer email, and revise.

What is this book about?

Wanna-be’s is a social satire, a sendup of race, gender, and identity politics, along with a metaphorical tale of a modern-day Icarus. With his new girlfriend – a soccer mom with a taste for bondage – urging him to “go condo,” failed screenwriter Winfield Payton needs cash. Accepting a job offer from a college friend, he becomes the lone white employee of a black savings and loan. As the firm’s token white, he poses as a Mafioso to intimidate skittish investors and woos a wealthy cougar to keep the firm afloat. He bumbles and stumbles through a series of misadventures involving Yuppies and militants, Muslims and Jews, blacks and whites, gays and straights.

What inspired you to write it?

The politically-correct talking heads on cable news always nudge me into wanting to capture them in satire.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My biggest supporter so far has been the first reviewer on Amazon. Her review summarized the book better than I could have:

This book right here! What can I say about Winfield he the most unlucky pasty or most unlikely fall guy...what a schmuck...I laughed so hard at this, for this guy....with this guy....every character described in this book will immediately remind you of a real life joker in the in the 24 hour news cycle on all of the Major networks and cable television channels regurgitating skewed facts benefiting them and lining their's hip and fresh writing which could easily become a HBO series....

Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?

So far most reviewers have caught my jokes and shared my delight in being politically incorrect.

Who is your favorite author?

Saul Bellow. I read everything he wrote to publish Saul Bellow: A Literary Companion earlier this year.

Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?

I am definitely looking for an agent to handle my fiction. I have published a dozen non-fiction books. I meet non-fiction editors at academic conventions and pitch my books face to face and have established long-term relationships with two publishers, both of whom have published four of my books. But I have had a harder time marketing my novels. I am seriously seeking an agent interested in representing a range of literary novels.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

The first chapter “Insignificant Others” was published two years ago in The Great American Literary Magazine. I decided to experiment and self-publish it. I thought it might do well on Amazon.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Wanna-be’s is available in Kindle and print on Amazon:

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

The Amazon site features Look Inside, so readers can sample the first chapters. I hope they find Winfield Payton interesting enough to want to read more.

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?

I did not develop a book trailer for this book. I have one on YouTube for another book, The IRA on Film and Television.

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

The best investment is promoting a book online by hiring a professional publicist who best knows which reviewers and bloggers might find the book interesting.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Read your work aloud to hear the words, especially dialogue.

What is up next for you?

I am completing a novel called Newman’s Choice. Three chapters have been published as short stories, two of which received awards. Robert Newman is a man struggling with choice. A rising young attorney, he destroyed his life, career, and reputation in a single night. After celebrating a big win for his firm, he drove drunk and slammed into a car, killing two college girls. After eight years in
prison, he is on parole, living in a halfway house. Making ten dollars an hour teaching GED classes, he has no car, no cell phone, no computer. He is resigned to a life of self-denial and self-imposed
poverty when another incident, captured on video, goes viral and thrusts him into a new series of choices.