Tag Archives: Fiction

Did You Ever Have A Family, by Bill Clegg

Synopsis:

The stunning debut novel from bestselling author Bill Clegg is a magnificently powerful story about a circle of people who find solace in the least likely of places as they cope with a horrific tragedy.

Did You Ever Have A FamilyOn the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is upended when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. June is the only survivor.

Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

Elegant and heartrending, and one of the most accomplished fiction debuts of the year, Did You Ever Have a Family is an absorbing, unforgettable tale that reveals humanity at its best through forgiveness and hope. At its core is a celebration of family—the ones we are born with and the ones we create.

Review:

To this day, I am still amazed at how two people can read the same book and walk away with an entirely different take on it. Did You Ever Have A Family is one of those books.

First, let me say I didn’t hate it. I just wasn’t over the moon, as many of the reviewers seem to have been.

Although I did like Clegg’s writing, there were more points I wasn’t fond of. For instance, the number of narrators. There are at least seven, quite possibly more. Some of the characters (the main) are told in third person while others (the secondary) are told in first. That seemed like a very odd choice to me. First person generally lends to intimacy. Why would Clegg want that intimacy with minor characters? Edith, Rick, Rebecca are hardly mentioned except for their one or two chapters, yet they are the characters the author sets up for the closer emotional bond with the reader. The constant switch in characters also gave the read a choppy feel.

There was no dialogue in the book. I didn’t care for that approach to storytelling. Rather than to bond with the characters, I felt as though I was bonding with the author. His hand was too heavy throughout.

Both the story and the characters were flat, no dimension. At no point did I feel as though the author brought his characters to life. Reading it was much like me telling you about my Uncle Frank from Jersey. Unless given a reason to care about him, hearing about a stranger with nothing to make him stand out will bore you. Everybody has an uncle from somewhere, right?

One detail I wanted to comment on: several reviewers mentioned his use of punctuation and went as far as to say that reading this book made them think copyeditors no longer existed. One of the biggest complaints was that he often used semicolons followed by conjunctions. He did. But… as a writer myself and not just a reader, I get it. It is easy to be a punctuation snob when you are only considering the technical side of writing, but when you are sitting on the creative side of the pen, everything changes. Commas, for instance. Anyone can open up their copy of Strunk and White and point fingers at the use of commas within any given work. But as an author, we exorcise our right to be original. I, for one, tend to use commas less as they should be used (technically) and more to emphasize. I use them to set off a particular phrase, or to show a natural pause in speech (dialogue) that cannot be shown on the page as easily as it can be inserted into actual speech. I recently read a book where the author used no dialogue tags whatsoever. It was a bit awkward, I admit, but that was their style. If we are all going to follow the letter of the S&W book, we will all end up sounding like imitations of each other. I just wanted to point that out because I get it. Our styles are as individual as our methods.

This book received a lot of hype, and a number of nominations for prestigious awards. I’m not going to say it wasn’t deserving, but it would never get my vote. Although not the worst book I’ve read, kudos to the person who wrote the synopsis. They managed to put a shine on what is contained between the covers. Again, I did like Clegg’s actual writing. Add a few three-dimensional characters and a plot with substance; this might have been a memorable read.

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Margaret Mal

Today I have the privilege of chatting with returning author, Margaret Mal. Margaret is the author of seven titles including Crimson Hills, and most recently, Double Lightning.

IDI – Thank you so much for joining me today. You’ve been busy since we last talked. Seven books? Tell us, how are you published?  

MM – Seven of my books are published traditionally (in Russia). I’ve self-published two novels written in English through Kindle: Crimson Hills and Double Lightning

IDI – Let’s talk about your newest release Double Lightning. How did you get the idea for this novel? Did you develop the plot thoroughly, outlining the beginning, middle and endbeforehand, or did you just start writing?

Double LightningMM – The idea to write about a criminal boss having supernatural abilities came to me several years ago. This man has been living in my head for so long, begging me to let him live – for real, on paper – that I finally gave in. When I started to write, I saw the beginning and end very clearly. I never start writing without knowing how I would end my novel because, for me, the end is the most important part. It’s what gives the readers an aftertaste and what helps them decide whether they liked the book. The middle is the most flexible thing which is mostly being developed in the process.

IDI – Who’s your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?

MM – Funny thing here. I always thought my target was what is called young adult and new adult. First, because of the main characters in my books who are young.  Second, because of thriller and ‘bloody’ aspects which are always included in every novel I write. I used to think that people of previous generation didn’t appreciate that: they were raised on books and movies of other sort. But being in a library in my hometown in Russia, I came across an old lady who claimed to be my fan and who said there’s nothing else for her to read, except me (she meant my books I guessJ). I was confused and amused at the same time. Now I really don’t know who my target audience is! J

IDI – Everyone has visions of where they see themselves in the future, be it a year or five. Where do you see yourself in five years?

MM – In a mental house. Seriously. I talk to my characters a lot more than to real people. Out loud. I guess from the outside it looks like I’m a schizophrenic and talking to myself. One day someone will call the ambulance and I’ll be put into a madhouse.

IDI – I might be in trouble because I think that is rather commonplace for writers! Where did you see yourself five years ago? Did you make it there?

MM – Actually, I kinda did. In 2012 I was eager to become a traditionally published author and had no idea whether I’d ever achieve this goal. And in 2013 most of my novels were published by the biggest Russian publishing house.

IDI – Wow, impressive. Most writers are happy to have just one picked up, let alone most. What is the hardest part about being an author?

MM – The hardest part is to get noticed. When you’ve finished your book and you are like: ‘Hey! Look at me! I’m a genius!’ – you have to realize that you mean nothing to the world. You either accept it and keep writing for yourself and your family or try to fight for the right to be noticed by other readers. If you choose the second option – here comes a real, cruel battlefield.

IDI – You are so right about that. Too many writers think that just because they’ve actually reached “the end” of their book, the world is ready to welcome it with open arms. It can be a devastating let-down when reality comes knocking. I’ve been promoting indie authors for almost as long as I’ve been writing and with almost every single one of them, the reality of writing has been one of the hardest aspects of writing to accept. What advice would you give to new/unpublished authors?

MM – Never ever give up. I know it’s a banal thing to say, but it’s true. It’s the only way to accomplish something you really want.

IDI – Random question, do you have any pets? If so, what are their names?

MM – Yes. A tortoise named Mary. She is adorable! And she loves to read too, doesn’t write anything though.Mary is reading

IDI – Do you have an all-time favorite book? What is it and what makes it your favorite?

MM – I have two: A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov and The Collector by John Fowles. These novels both are very deep, but in different ways. In A Hero of Our Time the main character Pechorin is so bored and confused with who he is that he constantly ruins other people’s lives. Despite dying young, Lermontov had learned people well (especially women), that’s why his works contain so much psychology. On the other hand, Fowles divided people in two groups in his novel – well-educated, intellectual elite and ‘the others’ who live in accordance to their basic instincts. And he did a great job in colliding them (although the most part of the book there were just two of them representing these two categories).

IDI – If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?

MM – No wars anymore. People, please, just stop killing each other!

IDI – I think that wish would resonate with many. You’ve received word that you will be included in a new book of original quotes on writing to be published next year. What quote do you contribute?

MM – If you failed seventy three times, give it a seventy fourth try.

IDI – Margaret, thank you so much for joining me today. Congratulations on your latest release, and we’ll look for more books from you in the future!

 

Margaret MalAbout the author. Margaret Mal was born in Russia. Double Lightning is her second book in English (mystery/paranormal). Link to buy www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y3LJ43S

Author’s page on Amazon www.amazon.com/author/margaretmal.

You can follow Margaret Mal on Instagram @Margaret_Mal, Twitter https://twitter.com/MalininaMM  or Facebook www.facebook.com/writer.margarita.malinina


The Shack… by, Wm. Paul Young

Synopsis:

Mackenzie Allen Phillips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in this midst of his great sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change his life forever.

Review:

Books have many purposes. Some are meant to entertain. Some are meant to make us reach deep inside ourselves and uncover buried emotions. And if we’re lucky, once in a great while we come across a book that is meant to stay with us for a very long time. It touches us in such a profound way it becomes part of our fabric.

I read such a book this week. It began with tragedy, sadness. But as is true in life, the sadness was necessary to help reveal the good that is worked through it.

              The Shack The Shack is a book that I cannot do justice in a simple review. To write and relay the type of emotion it evoked in me is something writers around the world struggle with daily. I’m not too proud to say I cried through parts of it. Although it began with sadness, the beginning was not the part that brought out the richest emotions in me. But even more importantly, I related to it. Not the details of Mack’s life as much as the feelings, emotions, and inner turbulence he experienced. There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t experienced much of what he experienced as far as emotions go.

I read a review where the reader said they had a hard time with it because it was in contrast to their beliefs. I get it. Not everyone shares the same beliefs. Even people of the same denomination disagree with certain aspects of their own religion. But this book isn’t about beliefs in terms of who is right and who is wrong. It isn’t about religion of any denomination. It’s about what is right and what is wrong. It does not delve into the story of the Bible. It deals with the human condition: judgment, forgiveness, anger, etc.

The Shack is brilliantly written. I am not going to go into the actual story as I would not want to ruin a single scene ahead of you reading it, and the synopsis gives little away, but I highly recommend it. It has been made into a movie, which I have not seen and probably won’t. I tend to like the book better than the movie and I wouldn’t want seeing the movie to alter what I took away from the read. If you’re not much for reading, then I might recommend the movie as opposed to nothing at all. I doubt it’s exact in its adaption, but one would think it maintained the essence that made the book as wonderful as it is.

With almost 13,000 reviews on Amazon with a 4.7 average rating, I couldn’t agree more. It is one of the easiest 5-star reviews I’ve ever given. This is a book you will find yourself wanting to re-read.


Brad Carl

Brad Carl, author and all-around great guy, recently invited me to appear on Backstage. It was a real treat and he graciously agreed to pop into Ink Drop Interviews in return. He offers a bit about himself, his work, and tips and tricks he’s learned along the way…

IDI – Good morning, Brad, it’s great to have you here. Let’s start with right now. What are you currently working on?

BC – It’s nice to be working with you again so soon.

I’m currently finishing up what I would describe as a psychological drama titled Craft Beer Burning. It’s about two young men who grow up best friends and end up opening a craft brewery together as adults. The storyline is somewhat of a departure from my debut, Grey Areas – The Saga, because it lacks any major crime elements. Instead, it relies heavily on loyalty, trust, and respect for some scandalous conflict. I originally hoped to have Craft Beer Burning released before the end of 2016, but it’s been a busy year for me and now looks like it will be January 2017. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

IDI – You’re not too far off course, and it’s always better to be a bit late and have it be right than to rush it when it’s not.

How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?

ga-saga-cover-digital-800BC – When I first started getting serious with my writing a few years ago I wasn’t taking the time to read many books. I used the excuse that I was too busy writing to also read. I didn’t understand the value of the relationship between the two. At the time I was drawing a lot of my inspiration from lengthy popular television cable shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Sons of Anarchy. I thought that was all I needed because the stories were deep and phenomenal. Since then, though, I’ve realized how important it is to soak up books and stories from others. Being a reader helps put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak. I can see what works for other authors as well as what doesn’t work. Reading helps spark ideas. It expands my vocabulary and also enlightens me with ways to handle the things I struggle with regarding my own writing. In 2016 my goal was to read 12 books – any subject or style. I’m going to come very close to reaching that mark, and I’m looking forward to upping the ante in 2017.

IDI – Absolutely! It’s very important to read often and widely. So many authors either don’t make the time to read, or only read within their preferred genre and I think it inhibits their work. I also agree about drawing inspiration from (well-crafted) television shows. Some of the best writers in the world work in television.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing and how has it helped you in your own writing?

BC – I’ve learned that it’s all about the storyline. If your story stinks it doesn’t matter how elegant your prose is or how many times you go to the thesaurus to find a fancy word – no one will care. I believe readers will overlook typos, misspellings, and the like (to a degree) if you still tell them a good story. Not that I suggest skimping on editing and proofreading – it’s very important and I work very hard to give my readers a “clean” reading experience. It’s imperative to worry first and foremost about the story. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But I think a lot of writers distract themselves so much that they lose sight of this. Remaining aware of this has helped me stay focused on my main goal: to give the reader an emotional ride they can relate to.

IDI – We all draw from within, there is an element of us in everything we write. How much of you will a reader find in your work?

BC – This might sound silly, but I feel there’s an element of me in almost everything I write. Being able to feel emotions strongly is a major part of writing. If you can’t relate to people and their experiences and feelings, you can’t possibly express it on paper for someone else to read and experience. Basically, every character I create is developed from my own experiences in one manner or another. It might not be from a direct personal encounter, but it could be based on observing others or hearing stories from or about others. This is probably why I enjoy dialogue so much. The interaction of people – both in real life and in my writing – fascinates me.

IDI – It doesn’t sound silly at all. I agree. And like you, my writing also tends to be dialogue-heavy.

Is there a particular area of writing (getting ideas, research, revision, editing, and such) where you seem to struggle most and how do you overcome it?

BC – I love writing dialogue so much that I sometimes find myself struggling with the narrative. I’m a details kind of guy in real life, but when it comes to writing (and reading) I’m not a fan of too much description. How much is too much? I like to give the readers just enough information so they can develop their own images in their mind.  I have a big fear of boring readers with too much narrative and description. I’d rather hold their attention by moving the story forward with interesting dialogue and explanatory but brief narrative and description.

IDI – What advice would you give to new/unpublished writers?

BC – Don’t do it to get famous. Entertain people, tell a good story, listen to your audience and readers, make it all about them. Don’t neglect any piece of the writing or publishing process – especially the expense of editing. Find an editor that you can learn from – someone who makes you a better writer. Last but certainly not least: Read your work out loud.

IDI – Excellent advice.

Everyone has their own style and voice (if we’re doing our jobs right). That being said, if someone would compare you, who do you think they’d most likely compare you to?

BC – I’ve been told my efforts resemble those of the late Robert B. Parker, creator of the

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Brad Carl

Jesse Stone series and Spenser novels. When I first heard this comparison I was flattered but had not read anything by Parker. When I read Night Passage it all made sense. It’s cool to be compared to a successful author, but it doesn’t mean I’m done growing. In fact, it only makes me want to read more so I can continue to learn and pick up things from others.

IDI – Not too shabby. I don’t know a writer who would have an issue being compared to him.

Can you tell us three interesting things about yourself you’re sure we don’t already know?

BC – I am listed on imdb.com under the pseudonym “Brad Westmar” for my supporting role in the 2013 movie House of Forbidden Secrets as well as for the lead role in a short titled The Request that appears on a DVD horror compilation, Hi-8.

Give me an acoustic guitar and you will wind up playing and singing with me for hours – whatever you want to hear. I have been playing, singing, writing, performing, and recording off and on since I was about 16 years old.  Always for fun, never for money. Strangely, I still feel to this day that I very well might be a better songwriter than I am an  author.

In addition to being a disc jockey in the 90s, I had an internet radio show from 2005 to 2008 and a podcast from 2011 to 2014. Both were sarcastic/comedy/variety shows. If you Google search “Brad Westmar” you can probably still find some audio or video clips.

IDI – I admit, I went to imbd and checked you out. Impressive.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

BC – Keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t get discouraged. You will get better and better at the craft. By the time the publishing landscape changes when you’re in your forties, you’ll have a ton of material to put out there for people.

IDI – Amen!

Okay, time to fess up. How many unpublished and half-written books do you have sitting around your house?

BC – A lot. For fun, I’ll give you a quick rundown.

I have two short stories that I wrote about 12 years ago for a Writer’s Group I was in. I’m also looking for another story that was hand written in 1990 or 1991. This one is special to me because it’s more controversial in today’s day and age than it was back then. I’d like to re-work all of these stories in the near future.

I also have a series of short stories and micro fiction that’s collectively titled Company Man. It’s a fictitious look at the ridiculous (and often comedic) side of business.

I have a free-verse poem I’d like to do something with. I’m not sure if it’s any good, but maybe some day we’ll find out…

I think this covers it, aside from the numerous ideas I have.

IDI – Trust me, I can relate.

Where is your favorite place to write, and what are your writing quirks?

BC – It varies. Sometimes I like to go to my local Starbucks and sit with a cup of coffee for a few hours. Other times I’ll sit at home. If I’m out of town I might write in my hotel room or possibly in a bar or at another coffee shop. There are two necessities (quirks): I need to have music (usually earphones unless I’m home alone) and I absolutely must be comfortable. This means sitting in a comfortable chair (some coffee shops and bars have) and putting my feet up if possible. (recliner, foot stool, coffee table)

Truman Capote declared himself “a completely horizontal author.”  He claimed he couldn’t think unless he was lying down. I can somewhat relate, though he also wrote everything in longhand – no thanks!

IDI – Like you, I can write anywhere. Unlike you, I cannot listen to music while I write. I have more than 2000 songs on iTunes that shuffle on a loop 24/7, but the minute I sit to write, I hit the mute button. I find myself either singing along or being taken back through the years depending on the song (I grew up in the 70s and still prefer the music of the era).

Brad, I am so happy you agreed to chat with me and share a bit about yourself with my readers. Best of luck with your upcoming release and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

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Would you like to know more about Brad and his work?

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The Art of Keeping Secrets

It seems I go through reading ‘spurts’ where I tend to read compulsively. Then I write. The last month or so has been a spurt. My latest reading, a book by an author I’ve read in the past, The Art of Keeping Secrets, by Patti Callahan Henry.

Synopsis:

Since a plane crash killed her husband two years ago, Annabelle Murphy has found solace in raising her two children. Just when she thinks the grief is behind her, she receives the news that the wreckage of the small plane has been discovered and that her husband did not die alone. He was with another woman. Suddenly, Annabelle is forced to question everything she once held true.

Sophie Parker knows the woman who was on that plane. A dolphin researcher who has lived a quiet life, Sophie has never let anyone get too close. But when Annabelle shows up on Sophie’s doorstep full of painful questions, both women must confront their intertwining pasts, and find the courage to face the truth.

Review:

This is a story about two women: one who doesn’t know the truth, and one who knows it but can’t share it.

the-art-of-keeping-secretsAnnabelle is living on autopilot since her husband died in a plane crash. She has her friends, her kids, and her job and is quite content to live a predictable life filled with memories. Sofie is trying to find her way through life. She has a job she loves, a man who loves her (even if it isn’t exactly healthy love), and a lifetime of secrets. The one thing these women have in common is that they are both weak characters. Annabelle can’t stand up for herself or to anyone, including her obnoxiously entitled daughter, while Sofie can’t fight her way out of a relationship where she is treated like the cute new puppy of a much older man.

For what the story was, it took the author a long time to get there, especially considering Annabelle found Sofie so early on. It was a bloated story filled with stiff characters. In far too many cases, the dialogue was too formal to feel real.

I hate to see one book take away from an otherwise good author, but this one did. I have read her work in the past and enjoyed it, but found little to redeem this title. The book was extremely predictable, the characters less than believable, and it took the very long way to get to the meat of the story.

I believe this is one of Henry’s earlier works. Although I haven’t read her titles in order, it seems to me that the more she writes, the better she gets – as it should be. Unfortunately, for some that isn’t the case.

This book wasn’t a horrible read. It simply did not stand up to the standards of many of her titles. Don’t let that fact keep you from picking up a Henry book, but in my opinion, make sure it was published 2012 or later.

Patti Callahan Henry is usually a 4+ star writer, but The Art of Keeping Secrets fell a bit flat at 3-stars (Just okay).

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The Innocent Sleep

I hope you all are having a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to spend it with loved ones. I was able to come home for a short stay to see my daughter and her family. Until he teaches me how to fly the plane (I say that like I’m serious), I’ll spend my in-air hours reading.

Karen Perry, the author of The Innocent Sleep is actually two authors: Paul Perry and Karen Gillece, both prize-winning authors and both having written critically acclaimed books. I didn’t know that fact before reading this title and only learned of it as I read the back matter of the book. The reason I mention this fact is that it runs parallel to my review.

Synopsis:

Tangiers. Harry is preparing his wife’s birthday dinner while she is still at work and their son, Dillon, is upstairs asleep in bed. Harry suddenly remembers that he’s left Robin’s gift at the café in town. It’s only a five-minute walk away and Dillon’s so tricky to put down for the night, so Harry decides to run out on his own and fetch the present.
Disaster strikes. An earthquake hits, buildings crumble, people scream and run. Harry fights his way through the crowd to his house, only to find it razed to the ground. Dillon is presumed dead, though his body is never found.
Five years later, Harry and Robin have settled into a new kind of life after relocating to their native Dublin. Their grief will always be with them, but lately, it feels as if they’re ready for a new beginning. Harry’s career as an artist is taking off and Robin has just realized that she’s pregnant.
But when Harry gets a glimpse of Dillon on the crowded streets of Dublin, the past comes rushing back at both of them. Has Dillon been alive all these years? Or was what Harry saw just a figment of his guilt-ridden imagination? With razor-sharp writing, Karen Perry’s The Innocent Sleep delivers a fast-paced, ingeniously plotted thriller brimming with deception, doubt, and betrayal.

Review:

the-innocent-sleep

The story follows Harry and Robin in a non-linear fashion through their relationship. It switches viewpoints at almost every chapter, between Harry and Robin, but not always in chronological order. This isn’t a huge problem, although there were a couple times I had to pause to figure out if I was reading ‘now or then’.

The characters were fleshed out enough to sympathize with, their personalities different and consistent. There was not a lot of setting description, which I liked, as I am not one who wants every little detail written out. I’d rather garner a few details from the book and imagine the rest for myself.

When I say the fact that there were two authors for this title runs parallel to my review, I am referring to the actual writing. The first three-quarters of the book are written out, a pace set and maintained, until the three-quarter mark. At that point, it changes. It begins to read like elaborate bullet points, the narrator telling the sequence of events one paragraph at a time. It reads like a narration to no one in particular, even though it is basically precise details being told to one particular person, in most cases Dillon. Even after Harry is killed, he relays the account of what happened to his son. I found that awkward as the entire book was written in real time, so this transfer of information did not seem to fit. It was obviously for the reader’s benefit. I saw it as a lazy way to reveal what had happened in as few words as possible. At one point, the thought crossed my mind that it wasn’t reading like the same author anymore. I have no way of knowing how these authors split the writing, and I may very well be wrong about one person writing the last quarter of the book, but learning there were two authors somehow vindicated my initial impression.

At one point near the end, a new POV character, Garrick, is introduced. Even though it is not the first mention of him in the book, the fact that a new POV was introduced so late in the story had an odd feel to it. It went from being Harry and Robin’s story and all of a sudden, it was Garrick’s story, too.

Entertainment Weekly said, “You won’t see the twist coming.” I don’t agree. The main storyline was predictable, and a little drawn out. What I didn’t see coming and saw no real reason for other than shock value, was Harry’s death.

There were reasons to keep reading, but there were also things that slowed it down. The Innocent Sleep was not a bad read and worthy of 3.5 stars on Amazon’s review system.

Have you read The Innocent Sleep? Share your thoughts…


Kenyan Smith

It’s been so long since I’ve done an interview, I almost feel like a newbie again! I have been so busy lately between a move, a new job, and a new release that I have had to learn to juggle a few more balls.

Today, after my hiatus from Ink Drop, I am happy to have Kenyan Smith with me. I interviewed Kenyan five years ago (You can check out that interview Here).

IDI – Welcome back, Kenyan. Those five years flew!

KS – Thank you for having me, again.

IDI – We all like to receive positive reviews. What is your reaction to a negative review? Be honest.

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Kendra’s Diaries

KS – It’s like a punch in the gut. The first time I received a negative review I felt sick the entire day. But you learn you will get negative reviews everybody does. So you have to read/listen with an open mind.  You pick out what you can use to improve and shake off the rest. It’s not always easy but in order to move past negative reviews you must do it.

IDI – Think back to the first book you wrote and then the last book you wrote. In what ways have you grown?

KS – In 2011 when I wrote my first book, I was greener than grass in many ways. One of the most important ways was back then I was focused far too much on writing the book and not enough on what comes next.

Writing and marketing can’t be mutually exclusive. And marketing isn’t screaming “buy my book!” But it’s developing and nurturing relationships that can and should go beyond me as just a writer.

My writing is a reflection of who I am. But the key to attracting and maintaining my readers/fan base is to give them me. The biggest way I’ve grown has been to expand my capacity to give of myself.

IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our taste buds?

KS – I’m currently working on my first non-fiction book tentatively titled Gurl Let Him Goooo! It’s nonfiction however it’s based on one of my real life relationships.

The book will discuss what happens when you fall in love, then realize the relationship is not good for you and the pain and process of letting go.

IDI – I’ve had one of them! (As I’m sure many of us have). The only difference for me was the pain came during. Letting go was the relief from it.

What works for you? Give us a rundown of your ‘writing process’ from beginning to finished product.

KS – It would look like this:

  1. Develop a concept for a book/What I want the book to say/do.
  2. Outline each chapter
  3. Write each chapter with paper and pen
  4. Type out each chapter
  5. Complete the manuscript
  6. Have it edited by professional editor
  7. Redo based on edits
  8. Final proof

IDI – What is the kindest comment/compliment you have ever received from a fan regarding your work?

KS – A young lady told me she felt like she was Kendra (the main character of my Young Adult Growing Pains Series). She felt as if she was reading about herself. She totally identified with her.

IDI – Favorite author, and why?-Sidney Sheldon.

KS – He was a master story teller.

IDI – What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing? How has this helped you as a writer?

KS – The most beneficial thing I can be for my readers is real. I believe I have something positive and valuable to offer the world and I want to share it.

It helped me as a writer because I’m not trying to be this writer or that writer; I’m being me. I have confidence in that.

IDI – How much time/effort do you give to social media as a means of self-promotion?

KS – I believe you are always self-promoting whether you mean to or not. So, I spend a lot of time on social media connecting and sharing about life in general.

IDI – Is there a particular area of your writing (getting ideas, revision, editing, et cetera) where you seem to struggle the most and how do you overcome it?

KS – I don’t like editing. For me it’s the most painful part of the writing process.

I try to take more care with the initial manuscript which can make editing a much less egregious process.

IDI – I’ve heard that more than a few times!

What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?

KS – One of my closest friends told me when I was struggling with the fear of making a wrong decision, “What you think you are going to go through the rest of your life without making another mistake? You will make mistakes but you will do what you always do. You’ll learn and grow from them.”

It was one of the most freeing moments of my life. I’m free to move forward with what I know and can do at any given time. When I make mistakes I learn, grow, and move on.

newbeginnings3D

New Beginnings

IDI – That’s sound advice.

Have you ever wanted to give up? What stopped you?

KS – Absolutely but not anymore. It’s easy to give up. It takes strength and courage to keep going no matter what. That’s who I am so that’s what I do.

IDI – In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?

KS – The same two I had when I began.

1. If I write a great book interested readers will just somehow magically appear.

2. Social media followers automatically = paying customers. They can be but there is a process a bridge between the two and that’s developing and nurturing the relationships.

IDI – They are misconceptions many new authors have, among others.

You’ve said that editing is your least favorite aspect of the writing process, what is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing: ideas, getting started, writer’s block, re-writing?

KS – Fortunately I’ve never had a problem with coming up with ideas or have experienced writer’s block. The hardest thing for me is finding significant amounts of time to write. My blocks are finding blocks of time to steal away and release all the ideas and thoughts inside. When I can find the time everything just flows.

IDI – Why don’t you tell the readers a bit about your other profession.

KS – I’m also a life/relationship coach. I allowed a major wrong decision take too many years from me. I’m committed to helping people not to fear making decisions. But to have confidence in their decision making ability and to see each decision as a step forward on their path to their individual destiny.

I want to help each person I’m fortunate to come in contact with to Live Their Best Life Possible.

IDI – Fun question. Your last book is racing up the best seller list. You’ve been invited to a sit down with Oprah. Describe your reaction to the news and your preparation for the show.

KS – I scream for about an hour really I would. Oprah is my girl crush!!

Honestly, my prep wouldn’t be that much. Oprah can smell a line a mile away. I would mainly focus on staying calm and being myself. I believe that would ensure an awesome interview!

IDI – I don’t know of an author who hasn’t dreamed of sitting on Oprah’s couch at some point!

One last question, what is the single most important thing you share with others?

KS – Life is truly what you make it. We can’t sit idly by while life happens to us and then complain when we don’t get what we want.

We are the captain of our own ship. It’s up to each one of us to be accountable for our own lives, success and happiness.

IDI – Thank you so much for joining me again, Kenyan. You’re one busy lady and we wish you the very best with your current and future endeavors.

To learn more about Kenyan and her work, please visit her at the following links:

http://www.iamkpsmith.com/
https://twitter.com/IAMKPSmith
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4825693.K_P_Smith
http://www.thegrowingpainsseries-shortstories.com/

K.E. Garvey is the award-winning author of Lily White Lies, The Red Strokes, and her latest release, Cry Like A Girl.

www.kegarvey.com


Keepsake, by Kristina Riggle

Keepsake is a book that covers a real issue. The issue has even been covered in a television show named Hoarders. This will be another brief review that states the important aspects without irrelevant additions due to time constraints.

Synopsis:

For her previous novels (Things We Didn’t Say, The Life You’ve Imagined, Real Life & Liars), author Kristina Riggle has garnered fabulous reviews and established herself as a rapidly rising star of contemporary women’s fiction. In Keepsake, she explores that most complicated of relationships, as two sisters raised by a hoarder deal with old hurts and resentments, and the very different paths their lives have taken. As always, Riggle approaches important topics poignantly and honestly—including hoarding and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in her remarkable Keepsake—while writing with real emotional power and compassion about families and their baggage. For readers of Katrina Kittle and Elin Hildenbrand, Kristina Riggle’s Keepsake is a treasure.

Review:

The book wasn’t horrible, but it tends to become dull in places. Trish is a hoarder. I got that from the beginning. After a while, I grew tired of hearing about the stacks of storage containers, or how she resisted parting with anything. I felt the emotion in the book was what carried it through. The family tensions and dynamics were well done, but the repetitive hoarding sequences wore on me. I never liked the television show for the same reason. Once the camera panned the piles of ‘stuff’ it went from disbelief to disgust. I didn’t need to see one half hour of it. *A note: I would absolutely read another title from this author as I felt the writing itself was good. It was the subject matter that turned me off.


A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

It’s been a while since I have given a review… but then, it’s been a while since I’ve had time to read for pleasure. I took advantage of a recent break in my work schedule and caught up on my reading. The first book I read was A Man Called Ove.

I’m going to keep my review brief due to time constraints, and vague as not to give away spoilers.

Synopsis:

In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet lovable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations. A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

Review:

This book was a little different than many of the books I read. If you can stick it out, it is a good book. But for some, the beginning will be too hard to stick with. It starts off slow and other than to be a truly stand-up guy like his father before him, there wasn’t much to hold my interest in Ove or his life. I don’t want to give spoilers, but I will say, stick it out. Touching and heartfelt, overall worth the read.


The Deepest Secret… by Carla Buckley

Synopsis:

Twelve years ago, Eve Lattimore’s life changed forever. Her two-year-old son Tyler on her lap, her husband’s hand in hers, she waited for the child’s devastating diagnosis: XP, a rare genetic disease, a fatal sensitivity to sunlight. Eve remembers that day every morning as she hustles Tyler up the stairs from breakfast before the sun rises, locking her son in his room, curtains drawn, computer glowing, as he faces another day of virtual schooling, of virtual friendships. But every moment of vigilance is worth it. This is Eve’s job, to safeguard her boy against the light, to protect his fragile life each day, to keep him alive—maybe even long enough for a cure to be found.
Tonight, Eve’s life is about to change again, forever. It’s only an instant on a rainy road—just a quick text as she sits behind the wheel—and another mother’s child lies dead in Eve’s headlights. The choice she faces is impossible: confess and be taken from Tyler, or drive away and start to lie like she’s never lied before.

Review:

Buckley uses every element of writing to her advantage in her suspenseful family drama, The Deepest Secret.

My biggest compliment to the author is that she executed her plot so well, other than whether Eve would do the right thing, the story was not predictable.

The Deepest Secret

The Deepest Secret

*Spoilers:

I thought David was going to have an affair with Renee. He didn’t.

When Melissa took her father’s car, I thought it was either foreshadowing of what really happened the night of the accident (she was the car in front of her mother) and she saw what her mother did, or that it was a red herring to throw the reader off)

I thought that (possibly) Tyler would pay the ultimate price to protect his mother. He didn’t. (The UV rays/disease hook was always somewhere between the background and the foreground, making me think it might have more to do with the story)

It kept me guessing on many levels, which is the mark of any good novel.

The author added just enough ‘extras’, or non-essential details, to bring realism to the tale without making me feel as though she were bloating it for length. The phrasing was fresh, the characters well developed (likable, but not cliché perfect), description enough, but not too much. It was well crafted story, from the minute details such as which way she turned out of the driveway, to the use of Tyler’s camera (and love for his sister) to plant evidence, the author was thorough.

The only area of the book I felt didn’t quite fit the tone of the rest of it, was the scene outside when Sophie was having/had giant lights put up. I understand she was afraid of the peeping Tom and I understand Eve’s reaction, but the everybody-talking-at-the-same-time scene was a little unrealistic. Fortunately, coming in at 420+ pages, that one scene didn’t take away from the read.

Worth a mention, but not specifically about the writing – I’ve read books where a child dies and somehow, it almost always brings a tear to my eye. I was surprised at the fact that this book did not. I can’t say what was missing in the writing that it didn’t induce that emotion in me, but there were no ‘Oh my God’ moments, or ‘that’s so sad’ scenes, even though the subject matter was sad, somehow, the author was not able to pull that emotion from me.

Still, a worthy read I would recommend. As a parent, it will make you think, ‘how far would I go to protect my child?’

Kathy Reinhart is the award-winning author of Lily White Lies, among other titles.
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