All posts by laelbr5_wp

Tailwinds Past Florence by Doug Walsh

Edward surprises Kara with the bicycling-around-the-world trip she’s been planning for years, failing to inform her that it’s a flight response from being let go from his position and blacklisted in the financial sector. On the US leg of the tour, Edward is offered a job by a host, who insists on an earlier starting time than Kara’s expected two years, forcing Edward to speed up their trip without explanation. In alternate chapters, Italian Alessio and Japanese Hirosama have traveled to the present from earlier centuries and are connected to Kara, as are the Native American and French-Canadian Edward and Kara came across in the American Midwest. Alessio works for Hirosama in Florence as Edward rushes Kara through Europe. In Florence, things reach a breaking point when Kara’s life is endangered and Edward must make a life-changing decision. Walsh portrays well a marriage unraveling from Edward’s hidden agenda, and the confusion wrought by a supernatural experience. While the paranormal aspect brings intriguing elements, it’s superfluous, as Edward’s subterfuge provides a sufficient story arc, and those elements are not explored. However, they could make for an interesting series, with sequels going deeper into the stories of Allessio, Hirosama, the French-Canadian, and the Native American. Dear reader could then find out what happened to the Native American, who was but a footnote in this tale. I received a digital copy of this fascinating story by the publisher Snoke Valley Books through a Goodreads giveaway.

Flash Fiction Friday

Writing Bad prompt

“The ring, please.” Father Monahan turned to Jeffrey, whose gaze sent everyone’s eyes to the back of the room. Whatever he was looking at was not apparent, and all returned their attention to the couple.

“Jeffrey,” the groom stage-whispered angrily at his best man. He couldn’t be bothered right now that his lifelong friend’s unrequited love hadn’t shown. For god’s sake, it was his wedding. If Jeffrey ruined it, their friendship was in question. It had been faltering ever more as this obsession had grown.

Laila slowly opened the heavy church door, hoping for a quiet entrance. She was late, hadn’t been expecting to come at all. Susanna had begged her to come. Her little sister’s wedding was a must, but she understood that HE would be there. They agreed that no one wanted the commotion that would ensue from her presence. Yet she desperately wished to see her baby girl she helped raise marry the man of her dreams. The door squeak echoed around the three-stories’ tall ceiling. Acoustics were fantastic in here—as a singer, she was impressed. Then all eyes turned again to the back of the room.

Halfway up, Laila’s ex-husband Henri sat with two of their children, both of them excited about baby sister as flower girl. Upon seeing Laila in the doorway, with sunlight haloing her auburn hair, he stood up, snapped his fingers for the kids to follow, and headed to the door. As he walked down the aisle, he heard a gasp from the front, but didn’t turn to find out from who. In his peripheral vision, he noted a tall man in black on the left get up and head in the same direction. He did not want to know who this guy was. Henri reached back for his children. The sound of little feet running behind him assured him that all his kids were coming.

Jade Cinders—Author, Poet, Founder of Facebook’s Writing Bad

Tell me about your writing process, including schedule, environment, and inspirations material and abstract.

Now that I’m a student, I write mostly during spring and summer breaks. I call these my “on” periods. During my “on” periods, I have a rigid schedule: work, gym, dinner, 1 hour writing, and then 1 hour reading (though, I often read for longer). During my “off” periods, I’ve been trying to introduce a simple 500 words a day to maintain momentum without interfering with my school work.

As for environment, I write in my bedroom on my laptop while sitting on my bed. I know, super classy. I live in a small apartment, so there’s not a lot of options, and this is the most comfortable spot to me.

I find my inspiration from everywhere, but my favorite source of inspiration is real life. I read a lot of news, history, mythology, and true life stories—and when I read these I get ideas for stories. It might just be from a person’s or town’s name, or maybe the local lore of a lake. I find that stuff to be a goldmine of inspiration. For example, I read about an ancient underground city that went seven floors deep that was discovered in the middle east. From that I built a fantasy story of a hidden magical city under San Diego.

Walk me through creating and maintaining Writing Bad.

When I first created Writing Bad, I did so because I was tired of the pretentious belittling I’d see in other writing groups. I would see more developed writers just tearing the newbies apart limb to limb, destroying their self-esteem, and it pissed me off. I wanted to create a group where everybody felt welcome to share their writing, regardless of their skill level. I wanted to ensure we branded the group properly. The colors were black and white, the atmosphere friendly, chill, laid back, edgy cool, with a bite. We weren’t afraid of profanity, and we didn’t censor. We allowed freedom of expression. That was what separated us, and what separates us. The first year I spent every hour checking in on the group. I have had to shift through some admins, though my lead admin Samantha has remained loyal and reliable (couldn’t have done it without her), until we finally reached today’s team. I’m not as involved today as I used to be, or as I’d like to be, but the group has continued to flourish and grow. It’s beautiful to see what it’s become.

Talk about your support system IRL and online—who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My biggest support system would be my boyfriend and my lead admin & friend Samantha.

How have life experiences prepared you for writing and how does your art influence your life?

Hmm…I’m just going to say it’s been a journey. A long, crazy journey.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love that my creativity allows me to see outside the box. I love to read, and I read so many different things. I’m not the type that only reads something that is in line with their beliefs—rather, I enjoy challenging my beliefs. I enjoy challenging the limits. I love reading fiction, nonfiction, politics, science, history, and more. I honestly just love to learn, and the more I learn, the more I love to share what I learn.

Connect with Jade:

Jade Cinders

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So Easy

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Maddie fell hard for Ian, British security detail, when she taught English in Bulgaria and her BFF Joanna was a humanitarian working in Macedonia before and during their civil war. He’s hard to pin down, even after she marries him despite Joanna’s inexplicable hostility toward him. He insists on moving from NYC to her small, Kansas hometown, though he spends much of his time in the Eastern bloc, working in a security business he started with his brother after leaving his government position. The story unfolds in layers as it goes back and forth in time and around the globe to explain the horrible murder. Ward does an excellent job evoking sympathy for Maddie, who appears to be on the receiving end of Ian’s PTSD. This novel portrays young American idealists who get caught up in tragedy, differences in maturity levels of best friends, and how lack of self-awareness contributes to obfuscation, as a mismatched romance leads to its horrifying conclusion. I was fortunate to receive this brilliant story from the publisher Park Row Books through NetGalley.

Ann Garvin—Author, Professor of Health, Mentor

I met Tall Poppy founder Ann Garvin in Bloom. She is approachable, super supportive of other writers, and apparently has amazing stamina. She’s astonishingly friendly and unsurprisingly witty. She’s a Renaissance woman of our times. We’re lucky to have her, really.

Describe your writing process—schedule, environment, techniques / strategies / magic spells, and inspirations material and abstract (what’s in your office? who’s in your head?).

When I’m deep into a book, it’s all I can think about. I get behind on everything. I love to write early in the AM. I get up, get coffee and start to write, and I’m astonished to see how much time passes so quickly. I like quiet, sunshine and my dog at my side. Otherwise I just need a computer and an idea.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product: who does what when and what marketing you do as the author.

Oh Lord, it seems like the longest road. And sometimes I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes. Eventually I get the cover idea, which seems like the most fun of the process, as long as I like the art work. Usually I love it. I’ve been lucky. Then it’s a lot of fact checking and proofing and waiting. I spend a fair amount of time figuring out what I’ll do for speaking, promoting, travelling and marketing. I line up readers for early reviews and call bookstores. I dream about what dress I’ll wear to the Oscars after the movie based on my book gets nominated. I write another book. I spend a lot of time hoping and praying.

Tell me about your support system online and IRL, including the steps in founding Tall Poppies and Bloom.

The Tall Poppies are a life saver. They are my tribe, my information base, my support system and my reality check. They really are my number one support system. I have a lot of wonderful non-writer friends, and while they cheer me on, they aren’t part of the publishing world, so don’t know how to help in that regard. I like keeping them a little separate, so that I am reminded that writing isn’t the only thing in my life.

It’s been six years since I started the Tall Poppy Writers and it’s been quite the learning experience. We went from a few writers helping each other to a much more organized system of support across the board. We started with a website, a few authors and a lot of energy, and we are still here today working to lift up women writers wherever we can.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa?

When my parents died last year I couldn’t do much of anything. My life has been so busy lately and it has slowed my writing down. This year I worked really hard to cut things out and make more room for writing. I’m hoping it worked and I’ll have more books soon.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love that my impulse is to go kind of zany, but my style is a little more down to earth. I think that is a good place to be. Aim high, but hit a little less out of the park; it lends itself to a more balanced life and story.

Author Extras:

“Listen to Your Mother”

“The Fifth Semester”

Connect with Ann:

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

The Fifth Semester

Unreasonable

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

A time travel criminal shot Kin’s Temporal Corruption Bureau retrieval beacon, stranding him in 1996. In the two decades it took his colleagues from 2142 to find him, he built a life with a wife and daughter. Regulations force him back to the future, where he’s been missing for only weeks from his work and his fiancee. His inexplicable disappearance, and her mother’s death, sends his daughter spiraling downward. He breaches protocol, reaching out to her digitally, endangering both. Chen brilliantly maintains time travel integrity, with its possibilities and limitations, placing his main character in an organization enforcing law throughout time, with strict safety policies for agents preventing him from aiding his daughter. This is a family drama that just happens to have a time travel element—a well-written, speculative suspense novel. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley.

Jessica Strawser—Writer, Editor, and Speaker

Photo by Corrie Shaffeld

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations material and abstract.

I’m an organic writer—I think a lot ahead of time about the characters and what my story’s central questions will be, but don’t outline in detail or swear by any particular tools or strategies, beyond reading voraciously, as much as I’m able. I’m very disciplined, with daily and weekly goals, and believe firmly in the power of forward momentum once I get going on a manuscript.

I wrote my first two novels by night, as my babies/toddlers slept, while working a demanding day job as editorial director for Writer’s Digest magazine. Not long after signing the contract for Forget You Know Me, I scaled back my role at the magazine and shifted to writing by day as my primary focus. A writing career involves a fair amount of evenings and weekends for things like book clubs, conferences and festivals, so this is a much more workable focus for my family, which always comes first.

Describe your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including publishing team and timeline. How did your work in the industry prepare you for the writing world as an author?

It’s been a little different for every book, particularly as staffing changes at my publisher have led to a few editorial team transitions, but I’m working at the pace of about a book a year. I refine a draft until I think (hope) it’s close to working as what I envisioned for the story, then get feedback from a few trusted readers and revise yet again before turning it over to my editor. Then comes another round to incorporate the excellent suggestions from her professional eye.

My work in the industry taught me what a team effort publishing is; I have enormous respect for my editors, having been one, and deep gratitude for the efforts of the hardworking support teams—marketing, publicity, design and beyond.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders online and IRL, and how did you get into the Tall Poppies (beyond being an excellent storyteller)?

My family and friends—who’ve seen firsthand my dedication to this craft since long before I ever got published—are my biggest cheerleaders, and their warm support means the world to me.

Also, at the start, were my colleagues at Writer’s Digest—we were all writers with a genuine love for the work we were doing there, and it was humbling to have them so enthusiastically in my corner—as well as a debut author group called 17 Scribes—it was invaluable to be tapped into a network of other authors publishing their first novels in 2017, and many of us remain connected today.

I’d met some of the Tall Poppy Writers through conferences, WD, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and online, and had admired their collaborative spirit and talented body of work for years; I was elated when they invited me to join.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa? Please share fun details about being the 2019 Writer-in-Residence for Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

While I don’t write directly from life experiences, of course we all are heavily influenced by the phases of life in which we find ourselves and the beautiful (and not so beautiful) aspects of human nature that turn our heads. I’d find it impossible to separate the two!

It’s a wonderful honor to be serving as the newly minted Writer-in-Residence for the Cincinnati library system this year; it encompasses more than 40 branches, and I’ll doing community engagement with local readers (visiting library branch book clubs and hosting a podcast) as well as aspiring writers (teaching free workshops and holding office hours, for instance).

What do you love most about your creativity?

Through dreaming up a story from pure imagination, somehow, I end up feeling more like me.

Connect with Jessica:

Jessica Strawser

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Wicked Girl by IV Olokita

The main character is a self-proclaimed misanthropic, remorseless pedophile. Yet Dear Reader is compelled by his story, so strange and vulgar, as he recounts how his life intertwined with the wicked girl of the title, Elsie, the girl he cannot forget. She’s one of those girls that brings out the desire in others to care for her and make her their own, frustrating John immensely in his attempts to analyze her. Dear Reader will also work on determining who are the puppets and who are the masters in this twisting tale of control and deceit. Olokita’s sparse writing style serves this story well, as the characters interact and relate in odd ways, each with a tenuous grasp on reality, and a skewed idea of truth. The punchline will send Dear Reader back to the beginning of the book to wrap up everything. Olokita is a unique voice whose works catapult readers through stories without investing them too deeply in the chaos. One wonders how the tone has changed in the translation from Hebrew. His novels are always interesting. I was given a digital copy of this story translated into English by the author for an honest review.

The Magic Feather Effect: The Science of Alternative Medicine and The Surprising Power of Belief by Melanie Warner

Acupuncture, chiropractic, tai chi, qi gong, and energy healing are investigated by an author with a background in journalism to determine their medical efficacy, contrasting and comparing to accepted western medical options. Speaking with patients and practitioners, at times receiving treatment, she considers the placebo effect on psychosomatic pain, and finds that western doctors are becoming more accepting of the mind / body connection. American hospitals are incorporating reiki into their recovery programs, and German hospitals are adding Psychosomatic Centers as part of their rehabilitation programs. Through observation, interviews, demonstrations, and studies, Warner does not prove or disprove effectiveness of various alternative treatments, but allows people to share their success stories, leaving dear reader open to the possibilities by the end of the book.

I received a digital copy of this enlightening book from the publisher Simon & Schuster through NetGalley. I highly recommend this book by a reputable journalist if you’re at all interested in alternative medicine for pain management or wellness in general, or learning more about our world.

Unstrung by Laura Spinella

New England Symphony violinist Olivia Klein Van Doren destroys her husband’s Porsche after he places her mother’s house in financial jeopardy. For her community work, she chooses to volunteer in the class of an inner city high school music teacher, who is the key to her secret, and a lifeline to someone from her past.

Spinella excels at complex characters—Olivia is less endearing than interesting, and yet elicits sympathy. She also presents a marriage of larger-than-life personas who have developed a unique, symbiotic relationship, which does not preclude financial disaster, and survives volatile behavior. The story hinges on Olivia’s ability to finally communicate her needs and be honest with loved ones. A novel by a talented writer inevitably includes a life lesson or two, and a huge takeaway from this one, beyond communication being key, is foregoing judgment on what appears to be obvious. Plus, it’s a good story! I won this novel in a giveaway on Facebook and fell more in love with this author.