Sunday, July 27, 2014

Communicating with Your Beta Reader

Your working relationship with your beta reader is based on trust. That starts with understanding each other’s expectations and communication style. Please read on for Communicating with Your Beta Reader.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Do You Care When Trends Corrupt Language?

Language changes all the time because every subculture needs a trendy way to express itself. This leads to linguistic trends that sweep the population, enter the mainstream, and establish themselves as acceptable over time though they break the rules of grammar and use words in unusual new ways. Please read on for Do You Care When Trends Corrupt Language?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What Does This Couple Want?

Here is a picture writing prompt for you. What is this cute young couple up to? Clearly they are sharing a moment of intense communication over some issue or question. What Does This Couple Want?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pickup Men Review

Pickup Men by L.C. Chase is an LGBT gay romance with very strong plotting and likable characters set in the dangerous world of rodeo. Please click here to read more.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Shirley a Novel - Review

Shirley: a Novel by Susan Scarf Merrell

GENRE – Literary Fiction, Fictionalized Biography

It is 1964 in Vermont. A (fictional) young couple moves into the spooky country house with real life literary giants Stanley Edgar Hyman and Shirley Jackson. For one year, the youngsters stay as house guests with young Rose acting as sort of a servant and lady’s companion to Jackson, and Fred functioning as a protégé to Hyman. First-person narrator Rose is a sensitive 19 year-old from poor beginnings whose hard-scrabble parents were criminals. Somehow she lucked into marriage with Fred, a sweet graduate student in literary criticism. Now Rose is pregnant for the first time. Her innately imaginative personality is heightened by hormones, and she becomes increasingly obsessed with making the volatile and witchy Jackson her mentor and mother-figure. In addition, Rose can’t stop thinking of a Bennington co-ed that went missing in the 1940s who has surfaced in various guises in Jackson’s fiction as a character. Could Jackson or Hyman have had something to do with the girl’s disappearance, perhaps due to an adulterous affair with Hyman?

Meanwhile, family tensions increase as Rose jealously attempts to freeze out the four Hyman kids (who are about her age) so she can have Jackson to herself. Though Jackson and Hyman (both in their mid-forties) are overweight, in poor health, and unattractive, they have an open marriage and a liberal attitude toward popping pills and drinking to excess. But Jackson, who writes feverishly to stave off financial ruin, understandably resents Hyman’s nonstop womanizing with his adoring students. All this creates a malign influence that starts to affect Rose and Fred’s marriage.

I’ve read most of Shirley Jackson’s fiction plus her biography (by Oppenheimer), and this novel accurately reflects Jackson’s writing style, themes, and personality. It’s moody, atmospheric, intense, and compulsively readable. However, I’m not comfortable with the author’s decision to make the three younger Hyman kids characters in her novel, complete with imagined behavior and dialog. These individuals are real people now in their seventies. Unlike their parents, they are not celebrities nor are they removed by death beyond the creepiness of having their privacy invaded. The story probably should have kept their appearance only to a brief mention. Look on for Shirley: A Novel

Copyright © Obsidian Bookshelf. I don't allow my content to be copied and reposted in full. You may use an excerpt (a few sentences) with a return link, but not the entire post.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Unsmiling Young Man Photo Writing Prompt

This photo writing prompt features a young man with an unsmiling gaze who should pique your imagination. What kind of person is he? What thoughts are running through his mind? From what action has the photographer just distracted him? Unsmiling Young Man Photo Writing Prompt

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Lemon Grove Review

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh is not a romance but could be classified as literary fiction or women’s fiction. It is succinct and emotionally powerful at only 166 pages and takes place in the third-person viewpoint of Jenn, the fortyish wife of Greg, an older and slightly pompous professor of English literature. They are a well-to-do couple because Jenn also makes good money managing a nursing home, but they still butt heads over Greg’s insistence on giving his headstrong fifteen-year-old daughter Emma the best of everything that their combined money can buy, including a hideously expensive private school education. Emma is Greg’s daughter from a previous marriage and is a good kid with an unconscious tendency to swan through life, expecting adulation for her youth and beauty. However, she isn’t above trying to manipulate most situations to ensure that she remains the center of attention.

Jenn, who worked her way up for a modest background, increasingly resents having to fund Emma’s private school tuition and the tension has been growing between stepmother and daughter because Emma senses this. Jenn is somewhat jaded and self-absorbed – just feeling the first touches of insecurity about her fading beauty and diminishing sexual appeal. But at heart she loves her husband and stepdaughter. You get the feeling that Jenn has been so busy working and living her day-to-day life that she has lost touch with the bigger picture of her destiny. Now she is caught flatfooted, wondering how she has arrived at this stage of her life with a husband she may have settled for while never having experienced a grand passion with him. And she’s never had her own child. How does she feel about that? She’s never had time to think about it before.

Every summer the family manages to break away from their high-powered lives to spend a few summer weeks on the Spanish island of Majorca where they rent a villa from a sly local man. This family tradition has deep emotional significance for them. But this year, after having spent one week at the villa alone together – feeling like young lovers once again – Jenn and Greg are about to welcome Emma and her startlingly pretty new boyfriend Nathan into the villa for the second week. This will upset their sense of themselves as an attractive couple and introduce an unsettling new power dynamic into the situation as Emma and Nathan become the gloriously youthful immortals, preening in their skimpy swimwear and unwilling to hang out with the “oldies.” And yet Nathan shows a secret interest in Jenn, and Jenn is shocked by her own intense attraction to him.

I found The Lemon Grove to be an intense read, beautifully written, and rich with emotional suspense. It’s not a romance, but more like literary fiction. The luscious descriptions of Majorca are woven into the fast-paced narrative like bursts of tropical flavor, adding three-dimensional vividness while never slowing down the sense of impending disaster. I really felt for Jenn whose selfish, destructive choices seemed to have understandable motives. In Majorca, removed from every day England, she is blindsided by a sudden midlife glimpse of the course of her entire life after having spent her youth working too hard to see where she was going. And I felt even more sorry for poor little Emma, as exasperating as she could be. Nathan, what was he? A cypher? A psychopath? His opacity fit the story. And the last page gave me a total chill.  Copyright © Obsidian Bookshelf. I don't allow my content to be copied and reposted in full. You may use an excerpt (a few sentences) with a return link, but not the entire post.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Six Tips for Working with Beta Readers

Beta readers test-drive your fiction before it gets published and they give you valuable feedback while you can still make improvements. If you are lucky enough to have one or more beta readers, here are some tips on creating the best possible working relationship with them. Please read on for Six Tips for Working with Beta Readers.