Of slacking off and book titles

This blogger has be accused of slacking off — posting pictures instead of writing or, horror of horrors, talking about the weather.

Today, this blogger has a post of more (she hopes) substance.

Authors agonize over titles. Picking the right one can be difficult.

Here are a few titles. What images do these conjure up? Would you be tempted to buy any based on the title alone? If so, which ones and why?

Forevermore – Tenderloin – The Baby Trap – The Brown House – Revision 7: DNA – Oenone – Waking Up Dead – Where’d You Go, Bernadette? –  Domingo’s Angel – The Palaver Tree – The Son – Legasea – Night Must Wait

Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

Now scroll down to see what each book is about.

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Forevermore – supernatural creature
Tenderloin – murder mystery
The Baby Trap – infertility issues
The Brown House – haunted house
Revision 7: DNA – sci-fi medical mystery
Oenone – fantasy
The Son – American western epic
Waking Up Dead – woman wakes up aware she is dead but with a murderer to catch
Legasea – fantasy
Domingo’s Angel – story of a small village in Spain during the Franco era
The Palaver Tree – a young British woman caught up in violence in Africa
Night Must Wait – four young girls in Nigeria during the Biafran war

Did any of these surprise you? Now that you know more which would you want to read?

What are the aliens up to now? Peek into book 3 EMBRACED

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00038]

 

Hi, I’m Curtis. Mrs. Jones—that’s her on the camel—put me in one of her books called EMBRACED. Sounds pretty mushy to me. Anyway, she says I have to tell you a little about the story.

Miss D, my school principal came to me one day with this page of scribbles. She thought it was some kind of code and she wanted me and my buddies to try to figure it out. I like Miss D and all. She’s not bad for an adult. You can talk to her and she doesn’t make fun. But, sheesh, a code from aliens? Anyway, to keep her happy, I said I’d help.

Thing is, once I started studying the scribbles, I could see messages. I told Miss D that Coder Guy (that’s the name Miss D gave to whoever was sending the messages) wanted her to fix things. Of course she asked what things? I didn’t know so I made up some stuff. Miss D wrote letters to newspapers using my ideas and the things she asked for started to come true.

She even let our class write letters on this fancy paper she had and the things we asked for came true too. Kinda spooky, eh? But fun. Secretly I wished Coder Guy could get rid of my zits and help me lose weight so I wouldn’t be such a geek. I didn’t tell Miss D that, but Coder Guy must have read my mind or something cause now I’m taller and better looking and the girls are starting to talk to me. Miss D says everyone changes, but for me it happened awfully fast so I think Coder Guy did it.

Now Miss D is in the hospital. She’s all screwed up by the messages and the letters and this guy named Sam. I think she really liked him, but he dumped her or something and that sent her over the edge. I’m going up to the hospital to see her now.

Oops, Mrs. Jones just told me not to say too much. Doesn’t want any spoilers for her book so you’ll have to read it to find out what happens. But she did tell me I could let you read an excerpt so here’s one for you.

Gotta go see Miss D now. Hope you like the book.

 

EXCERPT

“More drawings?” Curtis gestured at the papers she held.

Abby looked down at the pages and willed her hand to stop trembling. The three pages of code drawings seemed to shimmer and shiver with a life of their own. “Yes. Three pages. From Friday, Saturday, and last night. They’re pretty … they’re … pretty well done, I’d say.”

But Curtis was no longer listening.  He waved the papers she’d just handed him and almost shouted with excitement. “These are amazing. Way better than the first drawing you brought us.”

Abby stifled a small grin, but she had to agree. The drawings outclassed her scratches a million times over. “My friend developed instant artistic talent.”

“I’ll say.” Curtis shuffled the pages back and forth. He shook his head slowly and muttered “wow” over and over. Finally he looked up at her. “Miss D, thanks for getting so many. Now we have four to compare. We’ll see if there are any repeated patterns or sequences of symbols. Your friend is great to share these with us.”

“No problem.” Oh God, I’m such a liar. Of course there was a problem, and not just because she was lying to Curtis. My friend. How lame was that? The mere existence of the pages was the real problem. Some nights the clickings chattered incessantly in her fillings, almost driving her crazy.

Those were the nights of very little sleep. The weekend had been eerily silent. That was a new phenomenon since Friday, no clickings, instead Coder Guy had begun leaving the pages filled with drawings. Either way—no escaping the code.

A while back, she’d grown tired of sharpening the pencil she used each night and replaced it with a pen, which was now almost out of ink. She’d have to remember to get out a new one tonight. Or maybe not? What would happen if there was no writing utensil?

“What’s so funny?” Curtis asked. Abby hadn’t realized she’d laughed out loud. The lack of pen wouldn’t stop her night visitor. She stifled another burst of laughter she knew bordered on hysteria. Truth was, much as the pages of code scared her, she’d be devastated if no more came. The person—being, alien, Coder Guy—was an integral part of her life now; his existence had established a rhythm that kept her balanced. Or so she thought. Maybe she was completely off her rocker.

 

Out with the old, in with the new – it’s a generational thing

 

G's books

The other day, our granddaughter came home from school and asked my husband to ask her to spell I cup. He obliged. “I see you pee.” She giggled. This was apparently the height of grade one humor that day. My husband retaliated with this. “I got a new book from the library. It’s called Rusty Bed Springs by I. P. Nightly.”

Of course she didn’t get it. She didn’t have a clue about bedsprings—in fact, neither did our daughter. Only we elderly can bring up a mental picture of an old cot we had when we were kids and see the springs the joke refers to.

This exchange got me thinking about the circumstances that determine each generations’ experiences and the memories they will have of their childhoods. And it’s not just jokes and mental pictures of what we grew up with.

Without getting into the whole sphere of technology that has dramatically changed how we live and interact, I’d like to focus on books. I read to my granddaughter daily, and she reads to me, Slinky Malinki and Stickybeak Syd, Take Away the A, The Day the Crayons Quit, OH NO! (or how my science project destroyed the world), The Girl Who Hated Books….

Her bookshelves are full of wonderful tales, but there’s nary a “Once upon a time” to be found. And if you’re looking for a prince to rescue the damsel in distress—forget it. At the bookstore the other day, I looked, out of curiosity, for some of the fairy tales of my youth. Were the stores still stocking them? Were people still buying them? I found one, but that was it.

That’s not to say, my granddaughter has no classics, for on her shelves you’ll find Madeline, The Pokey Little Puppy, Corduroy, and a few Dr. Seuss which she loves and—is it sacrilege to say?—that I can’t stand

I sometimes feel nostalgic for those fairy tales of my youth and the memories I cherish. Back then, I loved the “Once upon a time…” opening for it meant a journey into magic and adventure.

But, for my granddaughter’s sake, I’m glad they are not on her shelves. I’m glad she’s reading about independent girls who can fend for themselves. I’m glad she’ll have different memories to cherish, stories of strong and self-reliant girls for that, I believe, is the greatest gift we adults can give our daughters and granddaughters.

Would you, if you could, live with aliens?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00038]

Would you, if you could, live with aliens?

One of the joys of writing fiction is the freedom to imagine and create something beyond the realities that we know. I’ve always believed that there have to be other life forms in the vastness of our universe. Heck, there probably are ghosts too. I’m sure I saw the ghost of our dog after she died. Then again it could have been an hallucination.

But, back to my question. In my Em and Yves series, aliens toy with Em, use her to “fix” Earth, play with her emotions and her sanity. None of it fair, of course, but then every novel needs some spice. Of course, I had to give her a chance for a bit of revenge so I let her wild emotions impact the aliens, much to their horror.

As I wrote books 2, 3 and 4, I wondered if Em or any human could or would leave Earth,

leave everything they held dear, likely forever, to go live on another planet with other beings. What would it take to tempt a person to do such a thing? What reassurances would they need? A promise to be able to return home, the opportunity to bring their family with them…?

Would I? Could I? What circumstances would lead me to make that kind of decision, to go into the unknown?

I don’t have answers for myself and so I ask, would you, if you could, live with aliens?

 

 

Purple Hibiscus – the role religion plays

Purple

Some readers see my books as anti-religion. Others ask me if the heroine is God. When I began writing my first novel, religion was the farthest thing from my mind. I was focused on romance, adventure and sci-fi elements that could bring some magic to my story.

I’ve abhorred organized religion for many years and many reasons. I’ve particularly been enraged by missionaries. Their self-righteous imposition of their beliefs on others seems to me the greatest of sacrilege.

Then I read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The legacy of missionary zeal, the brutality of missionary zeal is laid bare. The power and the danger of missionaries is brought home through the story of Kambili and her family.

Fifteen-year-old Kambili is the dutiful and self-effacing daughter of a rich man, a religious fanatic and domestic tyrant whose public image is of a politically courageous newspaper publisher and philanthropist. No one in Papa’s ancestral village, where he is titled “Omelora” (One Who Does For the Community), knows why Kambili¹s brother cannot move one of his fingers, nor why her mother keeps losing her pregnancies.

Papa, of course, passes on the lessons he has learned in his own childhood, taught by brutal Catholic missionaries; the abused is the abuser. Rigid religious instruction, intolerant and unforgiving, is the tool with which this man terrorizes his wife and children.

Most frightening of all is the family’s acceptance of this man’s behavior, and long after the abuse ends, the lasting desire for his love.

 

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10 tips for readers

reading

There are many articles about writing and many lists of writing tips for the novice authors. Pretty much every well-known author has such a list attributed to him or her.

But how often do we come across a “Tips for Readers” list? I have never seen one so, as an avid reader, I’ve decided to do one of my own.

  1. Buy an e-reader. My personal favorite is the Paperwhite, but they all have their good points, so take your pick and carry your library with you.
  1. Take it everywhere you go. You never know when there’ll be a moment or two to dive into a book.
  1. If you can, have a reading app on your phone as well, just in case your e-reader runs out of charge.
  1. Have several book samples on your e-reader to avoid the risk of having nothing to read and being reduced to biting your nails.
  1. Stand up, stretch your legs, and arch your back from time to time. You certainly can’t let pain distract you.
  1. When you don’t want to engage in meaningless chitchat with the stranger beside you, hide behind your e-reader. You might even have to do this from time to time with people you know and like.
  1. Pause for a moment, close your eyes. Let them rest while you ponder the wisdom/wit/humor/deep thought of the novel you’re currently reading.
  1. When people ask what you’re reading lie and say, War and Peace, and then go back to the heaving bosoms and throbbing members.
  1. If you don’t like the book you’re reading, delete it and move on.
  1. Don’t read and drive!

 

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When the Sun was Mine

NEW RELEASE – http://ow.ly/Ohut1  limited time introductory offer 0.99

When the Sun Was Mine

Review comments

“Expertly written, suspenseful, the mystery grips you from the first page.”

“… a surprising, entirely satisfying beginning.”

“… moments of true poetic beauty as a delicate, unusual friendship develops between a young girl (Brit) and an old lady(Flo).”

“I couldn’t put it down and towards the end I was sobbing.  Good thing I wasn’t wearing any make-up.”

“Alzheimer’s is such a fearsome disease, but Jones’ story doesn’t live there.”

“… makes its mark in terms of social commentary on this disease.”

“…when you have people willing to care, even those newly in your life, the most dreadful of situations can still touch your heart and leave you as the reader with possibility rather than loss.”

EXCERPT

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Poor little Miss Wright. Second time she comes into my room and once again she gets the shock of her life. Appreciated her concern for me, but really what could she do? I gave her a little wave as she eyed the two nurses bearing down on me and then slipped out the door behind Matthews.

All I wanted now was a long hot shower and something to eat. I’d missed breakfast of course and there likely wasn’t much left from lunch, but maybe I could scrounge something. I ignored the two nurses who had come in. One took my arm to help me to the bathroom. I shook her off and slammed the door in her face. Not fair to take my anger out on them. They hadn’t strapped me down, but then they hadn’t come to check on me all morning either.

By the time I finished my shower and put on my jeans, M*A*S*H* T-shirt, and thongs, oops, I mean flip-flops, Curly and Mo had remade my bed. The room still stank. I opened the window to let in some air. The incinerator wasn’t spewing forth at the moment so maybe my room would smell decent when I got back. I squirted some Chanel #5 on my neck and wrists and then a couple of sprays around the room. Terrible waste really, but I thought it might help.

I stepped out into the hallway and took a deep breath. Big mistake. The air didn’t smell a hell of a lot better than in my room. The omnipresent hospital odor mixed with the unique scent of old people. Not fair that everything went to pot as we aged. Wrinkles, creaky bones, flaccid muscles, droopy skin, and the sour fragrance of decay.

Just the other day, some little kid was in the visitor lounge with Esther. “Grandma, you smell funny,” he said, when his mother urged him to hug the old lady. Kid refused and kicked up a fuss. Couldn’t really blame him. At least his mother had the smarts to back off.

Yes, we were allowed out of our rooms during the day, the idea being that we could entertain each other and not burden the staff. Heaven forbid they should have to exert themselves for us. I went to the dining room and found a couple of slices of bread to pop in the toaster, and a hard-boiled egg. I poured a glass of watery orange drink made from powder like that horrible Tang stuff they sent us when we were overseas years ago, and smeared my toast with something that was supposed be butter. It tasted okay if you held your nose. Lord knows, I’d eaten a lot worse in my lifetime. Millet laced with grains of sand. I laughed when I remembered seeing the goats foraging in the mortar and pestle that held our food. I brushed toast crumbs off my hands and had to admit I felt better after eating.

I wandered over to the rec room and a sorry excuse it was. A few rickety tables and battered folding metal chairs, which made me think of France with all those sidewalk cafes, the parks, the little wrought iron tables, Michel. Now there was a lover extraordinaire, lived up to the romantic Frenchman reputation; kind and thoughtful and gentle, but a lion in bed. I closed my eyes and lived it again. Ah, those were the days.

Then I made the mistake of opening my eyes. Worn linoleum floors. One tiny window. I didn’t bother looking out. I already knew it was the same dismal view as from my room. Decrepit war-time houses across the street, scrubby grass that passed for lawns, the odd scrawny tree, no flowers to speak of, although one house had a couple of hanging pots that looked pretty, the riot of color a sight for sore eyes. Battered bikes lay scattered in the yards, abandoned haphazardly when the kids got home from school. Wrecks of cars parked in front of some of the houses. Was a wonder any of them still worked, but they did. I’d watched the people from my window when I couldn’t sleep: kids, parents, going about their business, work, school, with a few drug deals thrown in for good measure. Dreary little houses, dreary little lives. Bet all they did was watch the boob tube, guzzle beer, and smoke pot. Bah. Humbug.

We never got to go outside. Never. I’m sure prisoners were better treated. Didn’t they always have an exercise yard or was that just the movie image? A trip to a park or the mall would be nice, or the movies. Not that Hollywood was producing much good stuff these days, but still … just to get out.

Everything about Happy Hearts so conducive to enjoying oneself. I counted five people in the rec room sitting, staring at the floor. A sixth was watching television on mute alternately nodding and shaking her head at the screen.

Old Artie, and I mean old, ninety-nine and still toddling along, spent most of each day sitting at the chessboard. Never had any visitors or anyone to play with. I took pity on him, sat down, and offered to play a match. He proved to be a more challenging opponent than I expected, but I won. Took my mind off the Internet dilemma for a bit. I’d have to lie low for a couple of days, but then what?

I roamed the halls looking for Brittany and found her with a large screwdriver in her hand.

“What are you going to do with that?”

“I couldn’t open your window this morning. It’s stuck.”

Stuck? I burst out laughing. This younger generation never ceased to amaze with their ignorance. The chit had obviously never seen wooden windows before and didn’t know she had to turn the lock thingy at the top of the frame before she could slide the window up.

The girl bristled. “What’s so damn funny?”

“Whoa, did you just use a bad word?”

She blushed. Must have grown up in a staid household, I thought. Much like mine. The words in my head stopped me cold. I squeezed my eyes tight and fought to remember, but nothing came to me. I felt tears forming at the corners of my eyes. To have a glimpse, just one little glimpse of my mother. That’s all I asked. Did I have pictures of her? If so, where were they? Would I recognize her or would someone have to point her out to me? And my dad? What was he like?

That’s the worst thing about this Alzheimer’s business. Thoughts pop in and out of your head until you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. They taunt you with snippets of your life before, but there’s never enough to grasp a whole memory or maybe there is on some days and you just don’t remember.

“Is your window always locked?” Brittany asked.

Her voice jolted me back to the present. “No, why?”

“Not even at night?”

“I like to leave it open all the time for fresh air, if the incinerator’s not rumbling that is.”

“Okay then.”

I watched her amble down the hallway toward the caretaker’s office swinging the screwdriver and humming, “a merry tune to toot, he knows a song will move the job along.” Hated that movie. Maudlin nonsense.

 

 

Finding a Good Book

haystackFinding something to read has become little more than hunting for that proverbial needle in the haystack.

In the “old days” we searched the shelves in the library for a title or cover that attracted our attention and then read the blurb. The hunt could take hours, followed by the trek home with an armload of books, only to cart several back unread as they just didn’t appeal.

Now, we face another haystack as we receive emails from publishers and Amazon, from book groups like The Fussy Librarian and bloggers we follow with a multitude of suggestions for our reading pleasure.

With each book that captures our interest, we first read the blurb, then download the sample. Many of these too, will be deleted when the first bit doesn’t hold up to its initial promise.

In all of this time consuming search, it is perhaps the suggestions of fellow readers that hold the most promise for a good or great read.

With that in mind, here are a few books that I feel are worth your time.

The Iron Wire by Garry Kilworth who learned to receive and send Morse code at the age of 15. Recommended by my aunt who lives in Australia, this recounting of the construction of the Adelaide to Darwin telegraph line is much more intriguing than it sounds. No dull list of facts here. Kilworth imbues the story with drama and a love of the harsh beauty of the land traversed in the stringing of the line.

The Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle. A modern murder mystery, set apart from most by the fact that it is entwined with characters from WWII. Set in Florence we are shown a different side of the ravages of war as a senior policeman agrees to supervise a murder investigation, after it emerges the victim was once a Partisan hero.

Because We Are: A novel of Haiti by Ted Oswald. Harsh, gritty, and heartbreaking, this look at Haiti today will bring tears, but you won’t be able to stop reading. When ten-year-old orphan Libète discovers the bodies of a murdered mother and child, we are taken into the depths of the slums of Haiti’s most infamous slum.

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement. If you want to know what life is really like for the majority of Mexicans—that is the poor—read this. It is the most accurate account I have come across.

 

 

 

Evolution

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Howling winter winds pounding the snow into hard packed drifts. Howling summer winds snatching the precious top soil from the fields. Isolated. Lonely. No electricity. No radio. No television. What was a child to do?

Read. No matter that there were less than half a dozen books in the house. They could always be read and reread.

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The fuzzy wuzzy Santa lost much of his fuzz from all the touches. The pop-up book barely escaped tears from all the pulling to see what treasures were in those pictures.

And what did that child do when she was an adult? Bought books of course—and to replace the pop-up books of childhood, she bought Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series with their letters to be pulled out, unfolded, read, and tucked back into their envelopes.

And what did that child do when she had children of her own? Bought them books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That mother marveled with her children at the magic of the books with their pullout bits, their wheels to turn, their pages that magically grew as they were opened and the school house with all the windows to peer into.

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And what did that child do when she had a granddaughter? Bought her books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That grandmother marveled with her munchkin at the magic of the intricate designs–whole playgrounds that popped up to surprise and delight them.

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We’ve come a long way, baby. A long way.

Santa Claus and the Little Lost Kitten by Louise W. Meyers 1952

Santa’s Christmas Party by Helen Sterling 1951

Mother Goose – Hallmark (no date)

School Bugs by David A. Carter 2000