Thursday, January 31, 2013

That's All She Wrote

Moar LOLz: vote  share  caption

I fiddled around and used up my allotted hour for blog post prep with nothing to show for it. Do not have the luxury this week to be lenient with myself.  My mom and my sister are counting on me.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: Scammed by Art Maines

Scammed: 3 Steps to Help Your Elder Parents and Yourself
by Art Maines
Love Your Life Publishing,  October  12, 2012
210 pages available in print and ebook

Art Maines combines the intimacy of personal testimony with the lucidity of a how-to manual in this book that begins by sharing what it was like to shepherd his stepfather through the aftermath of a despicable scam that bilked him of tens of thousands of dollars and proceeds to describe the precise steps that must be taken to minimize the damage and protect against future defrauding.  And that's just the first section.

The next section covers the emotional fallout for both the elder parent and the adult child--the shame and guilt, the strain on the relationship, the stress and anxiety--and advice for mitigating it.  Further sections go into greater detail about each specific type of scam--'helping' someone move funds from overseas, home repair, identity theft, telemarketers and more--and how to protect against them, the psychology behind the 'grooming' methods the scammers use to worm their way in, and many resources for more information or specific help for both proactive protection and after the fact assistance.

Maines has prepared a helpful guide for anyone finding themselves or a loved one victimized by a scam or who wants to defend against them.  The best defense is information. There is more information here than you could shake a stick at as my Grandpa liked to say.


From the Publishers:


One in Five US Seniors are Scam Victims, Learn How to Prevent and Recover from this Crime:
When author Art Maines' beloved stepfather Bill was cheated out of thousands of dollars, Art went on a mission to ensure no other family experiences this tragic crime.

In Scammed, Art provides a three step scam prevention and recovery program, based on his training as a social worker, therapist, and his extensive research.  Suitable for seniors or children of elderly parents, Scammed will help you:

  • Understand the most common types of scams
  • Learn the psychological ploys used by scammers so that you can spot a scammer immediately
  • Create a scam prevention plan
  • Recover from a scam with your dignity intact
  • Use the resources in your community if you suspect a scam


What they are saying: 



"just finished reading this book. this would be a great resource for people finding themselves in the unenviable position of being scammed or finding that they have a parent who has been scammed. it is packed full of practical, clear advice on what steps to take when you don't know where to turn or how to get started on recovering from being scammed. this book also gives valuable direction on how to be proactive and to get started on protecting yourself or your parent from becoming a scam victim." Peggy I. Montgomery, Amazon.com Reviewer

"An excellent guide to helping your parent avoid predators."~ N. Kortner Nygard, Ph.D., Geriatric Psychologist

"A wealth of advice to help heal the emotional and physical aftermath of scams."~Jennifer L. Abel, Ph.D., author of Active Relaxation

"A simple breakdown of scams that target the elderly with a battle plan to protect and prevent" ~Detective Joe Roubicek, Author of Financial Abuse of the Elderly; A Detective's Case Files of Exploitation Crimes

"This is an important book for anyone with elderly parents.".~Gregory W. Lester, Ph.D.



Art Maines, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice, speaker, and expert in elderly fraud recovery and prevention. He earned his Master's Degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Art and his stepfather Bill live in St. Louis.


Websites:
http://scammedbook.com/
www.elderlyfraudrecoveryhelp.com






Follow the blog tour for more reviews, giveaways, author interviews and guest posts: 

http://www.virtualauthorbooktours.com/

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

65th ROW80 Check-In

A Round of Words in 80 Days
Round 4 2012

The writing challenge that knows you have a life
My goals are all time investment and are detailed on the  ROW80 page   I keep track of the time invested with a Google Doc spreadsheet linked on the goals page and also in each check-in along with a screenshot of the most recent days.

These check-in posts will contain any commentary I have about encounters with the goals since the previous check-in and any relevant links.

Below the commentary is my current reading list for the READ CRAFT goal.



This Wednesday through Sunday are going to be one of those 'life imposes its own goals' times as these are the five days that I'm to be on duty with my elderly Mom while my sister attends a day retreat.  Mom and I are both severely visually impaired with RP aka Tunnel Vision and Mom has chronic issues related to the broken hip in 2008 and the stroke that occurred during that surgery.  I will be fixing lunch and dinner off the menus my sister and I prepared and cleaning the kitchen after.  Also keeping Mom entertained and waiting on her when she needs me to.

I should still be able to manage the time investment goals reflected by the spreadsheet tho at the bare minimum in most cases.  I won't expect anything extra from myself.  FICTION FILES will continue to be as it has been since I left home the first week of January--just fiddling in the notes.  Maybe a little editing of drafts.  I doubt I'll find the quite private time I need to write fresh draft this week.  Especially since I've not found it since I've been here and will have even less flex in my schedule.

But I bet Jane Austen would have found a way even sharing a room with an elderly mother.

Meanwhile as discussed in the last several check-ins, the effort to find more time for fiction reading by putting boundaries on blogging continues.  As does work on that Secret Santa crochet project that is sooooo past due which I mentioned a lot here during the lead up to Christmas.

Crochet relates to ROW80 how?  Well when I created the DAYDREAM STORY item in my goals it became inextricably entwined with crocheting.  Now I can barely do either without thinking of the other.

READ CRAFT:

Currently Reading

What to Do When There's Too Much to Do by Laura Stack (Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list)
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Go by Les Edgerton
Write Good or Die! edited by Scott Nicholson (a collection of essays by inde authors.  many of them self-published)  
The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff I left this book at home so I can't continue until I return in mid February but I don't want to remove it so I'll just use strikethru for now.
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller Net Galley a NF that purports to answer many puzzles in the Austen novels. Since this discusses writing and techniques of fiction
Jung and the Tarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols Since I'm reading this for an understanding of character type and the language of symbol understood by our unconscious as well as research for a character who is a Tarot reader
13 Ways of Looking at a Novel by Jane Smiley  This was one of the 24 items I checked out of the Longview library on my sister's card last Thursday.
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.  Found this while spelunking the stacks looking for the Smiley book.  Who knew.  Dick was a mystic.  I've only read one of his novels and a few short stories but now I've got to try to find and read everything!


Recently Read:

A Cheap and Easy Guide to Self-publishing eBooks by Tom Hua read this online
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg  Just finished this last fall and wrote an overview of it for that check-in along with my musings on how to apply what I learned..  This is where I've been getting the most help with learning how to recognize a habit, determine if it is desirable and if so maximize it but if not change it.




Read more...

Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Share what you (are, have been, are about to, hope to be) reading or reviewing this week. Sign Mr Linky at Book Journey and visit other Monday reading roundups.

The sections of this template:

Intro (here)
My Week in Review (list of books finished and links to bookish posts in the previous week)
Reading Now (my current reading list broken up into NF and Fiction)
Upcoming (scheduled reviews and blog tours and list of finished books awaiting reviews)
Recently (links to bookish posts in the last few weeks)
New Arrivals: (lists of recently acquired ARC broken up into snail mail, email and Net Gallery)
ARC in waiting (a list that is getting shamefully long)

My Week in Review:

Khanh Ha author of Flesh Guest Post:

4 Things You Should Know About Writing Fiction


My ROW80 Check-In posts have been primarily on the theme of making more room for fiction reading for the last two weeks.  Saturday's is a musing of the lessons learned and applied and intentions going forward.  Including protocols to be put in place that should increase the number of book reviews going up here.

ROW80 btw is a writing challenge blog hop/support group emphasizing setting goals and aiming for them but recognizing when circumstances can't be helped and learning to adapt the goals.  I've made massive adjustments to my habits since I joined in April but at such an incremental pace I barely noticed.

Finished reading:

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.  This is one of the library books I checked out at the Longview library two weeks ago.  I started it last Sunday night and finished Wednesday evening.
A Light in the Window by Jan Karon.  Book two of the Mitford series.  I started reading the first book, At Home in Mitford, aloud to Mom last spring and after I left they tracked down an audio book of it and Mom finished listening to it and then my sister discovered her friend had the whole set in paperback and she borrowed this one and started reading it aloud to Mom at bedtime.  They were on chapter five or six when I first got here and I was supposed to catch up and then take over but I had too much ARC reading on my plate. I also found the audio book at the Longview library and put it on hold for my sister to pick up last week so they could listen together while my sister did meal prep and paper sorting etc..  But whenever they were listening I had to skedaddle from the room to avoid spoilers.  I finally caught up last night just in time to listen to the last two chapters with them during dinner tonight.

Reading Now:

Non-Fiction:

Most of these I plug away in at a snail's pace--a couple pages or chapters per week as that is my preferred way to read non-fic.  It sticks with me longer. I'm closing in on the finish line for several but as I get close on one I tend to add two or three more. There are some not listed here because I don't read in them weekly.

Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Go by Les Edgerton (Part of my ROW80 reading in craft list)
Get Your Loved One Sober by Robert Meyers (Research for a fiction WIP)
What to Do When There's Too Much to Do by Laura Stack (Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list)
And So It Goes by Charles J. Sheilds a bio of Kurt Vonnegut.  (I've posted about this biography of Kurt Vonnegut several time in a kind of reading journal. It is past time for another.  Part of the fun I'm having reading this is in stopping to read the stories he wrote as the narrative reaches the point where he writes them. Since this is an author bio this will also be on my ROW80 reading list )
This Mobius Strip of Ifs by Mathias Freese (I've posted a reading journal post for this collection of personal essays also.  It is past time for another.)
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller Net Galley a NF that purports to answer many puzzles in the Austen novels. Since this discusses writing and tecniques of fiction I'll be adding this to my ROW80 reading list
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff So part of my ROW80 reading list. Am temporarilly putting a strikethru on this as I left it at home so won't be reading in again until mid February
Jung and the Tarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols Since I'm reading this for an understanding of character type and the language of symbol understood by our unconscious this will be on my ROW80 reading list
13 Ways of Looking at a Novel by Jane Smiley  This was one of the 24 items I checked out of the Longview library on my sister's card last Thursday.
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.  Who knew.  Dick was a mystic.  I've only read one of his novels and a few short stories but now I've got to try to find and read everything!
Scammed by Art Maines   for Blog Tour Review  January 30.
Before You Say I Do Again by Benjamin Berkley  for Blog Tour Review Feb 8
The Fiction Writer's Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf

Fiction:

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness  (audio from library)  Was listening to this while working on this Xmas crochet project and have not gotten back to it since Christmas.  If I wait too much longer I'm going to have to restart it yet again.  Or at least back up a ways to reorient.
After: The Shock by Scott Nicholson  This is post apocalyptic horror with zombies.    I anticipated enjoying this even tho zombies are not my favorite horror theme because I really enjoyed his The Red Church and I am but probably not to the same degree.
Losses by Robert Wexelblatt an ARC
The Civilized World by Susi Wyss (another a Tree book ARC that got lost in the mix before I'd finished it.  Have not posted a review for this one either and can't remember when I received it but it had to be at least a year ago before I started packing for our move and likely before 2011 NaNo when I typically stop reading fiction while I'm so intensely writing it.  This is a collection of interlocking short stories set in South Africa and I remember I was quite enjoying it.  I've had to start it over.)
Lulu by Nancy Friday from NetGalley  I started this one when I realized the ARC was about to time out on me.  And then didn't finish it in time.  That is a frustration with NetGalley for me.  Will have to hope one of the libraries I have access to has a copy now.

Seriously.  I need to reinstate the rule of one novel at a time. (a line I wrote last week when there were two more novels on that list and in the spirit of my New Year Resolve to finish more things than I start I've resisted starting any new fiction.  So far.

Besides I have two NF to read for Blog Tour reviews scheduled in the next ten days and for five of those days I'm on duty for two meals a day and other care with my Mom while my sister attends a retreat.  I'll probably be reading book three of Karon's Mitford series to her.  But other than that I would like to knock Losses and After off this list before I add anything new and write the reviews for two or three of the recently finished fiction while they are still fresh.  That is a habit I'm hoping to establish going forward.

Upcoming:


Blog Tours:

Scammed by Art Maines   Review  January 30.
The Eighth Wonder by Kimberly S. Young.  A novel.  Review Feb 6
Before You Say I Do Again by Benjamin Berkley  Review Feb 8
Against My Will by Benjamin Berkley Review  Feb 20
Creature Features by Tim Rowland  Review Mar 12

The Fiction Writer's Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf



Books I've Finished Awaiting Reviews:


At Home in Mitford and A Light in the Window by Jan Karon  (the ebook I was reading aloud to my Mom while staying there in March and April. These short little lighthearted chapters are almost like stand-alone short stories with beloved characters and make great bedtime reading for adults wanting pleasant dreams)

The Land of Decoration by Grace McClean
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg   Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list.   I discussed this in such detail in my mid-week ROW80 check-in post it was practically a review and I'll probably copy/paste much of what I said there into the review.


The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan This was a Net Galley ARC.  It will be archived on Net Galley on January 8th it's pub date and tho I finished it last week I was unable to get the review posted and now I have the two blog tour posts to put up this week so for the third or forth time I'm not going to get my feedback recorded at Net Galley before the feedback page for the item is closed to me.  tsk tsk tsk.

Never Give in to Fear by Marti MacGibbon  This was a NetGalley ARC but later I picked it up for Kindle when it was free on Amazon.  I began it in Adobe Digital Editions and when that timed out on me switched to the Kindle for PC.  This was a memoir of an addict's decent into the abyss and rise back out again and was quite engrossing.

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
Recently:

___Reviews and Bookish Posts:

Flesh by Khanh Ha  Review posted last Wednesday.

Flesh is a very dark and disturbing story and yet, still, suffused with hope like a sandy shore on the edge of a dank jungle shimmering under a full moon....The prose often has the cadences and imagery of poetry and shifts between scenes having the surreal quality of dreams and those with fast-paced action. Khanh Ha's meticulous attention to detail in every scene, his dedication to bringing all five of the senses into play is yet another way he engages with the theme and in this way draws the reader in and tethers them by the sinews and fibers of their very flesh. This story grips and won't let go even after the last page is turned.

Be sure and check back this Friday for an Author Guest Post on the subject of fiction writing.

Friday Forays in Fiction: The Modern Word  In which I shared a favorite web site devoted to modern and post modern literary fiction--meta fiction, magic realism, surrealism and other types of pushing against the envelope of form and function--the writers like Joyce, Garcia Marquez, Borges, Pynchon and Byatt who know how to put the zing in amaze.

My Journey As a Combat Medic by Patrick Thibeault  A memoir.  My review from Tuesday Jan 8 and the author interview on Wednesday Jan 9.

New Arrivals:

By snail mail:

By email:

The Fiction Writer's Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf

from NetGalley

there were several I got access to but have not downloaded them yet so I won't count them here yet

ARC in waiting:

Tree Books:

The Variations by John Donatich
The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith   My husband read this and loved it and is after me to read it so he can talk about it.
The Hunger Angel by Herta Muller  Nobel winner!!
Skios by Michael Frayn
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
The Sadness of the Samurai by Victor del Arbo
Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman
Winter Journal by Paul Auster a memoir from an American literary figure that really excites me.
We Sinners by Hanna Pylvaine.   It's another story exploring the impact on family life of a fundamentalist religion.  One of the themes I'm drawn to like Pooh to honey.
Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010 compiled by The Organization Breaking the Silence
A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks


Ebooks:

____By email:

After: The Shock by Scott Nicholson
Troubled by Scott Nicholson
Losses by Robert Wexelblatt  This arrived a couple months ago but I somehow neglected to put include it in this list before


____From Net Galley:


A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller
Never Give in to Fear by Marti MacGibbon
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Unloched by Candace Lemon-Scott
Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy 
by Emily Bazelon
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
With or Without You A Memoir by Domenica Ruta
The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron
The Book of Why by Nicholas Montemarano


If anyone reading this states a preference I may let it weigh my decision as to what I begin next from the above list.

Read more...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Serenity #321




My sister and I just went over the meal plans for the five days she will be gone this coming week and making out the grocery list she'll have to shop for in the next two days.  She will be gone days from Wednesday through Sunday getting home towards midnight and leaving before breakfast each day.  I will be on duty with Mom and will be making five lunches and five dinners.

Let's just say we're having a lotta cheeze, garlic, salsa and salad.  Nachos or burritos  taco soup, pizza and salad, spaghetti and salad, stir fry, toasted cheese sandwich and tomato soup, Tater Tot casserole, quesedia,  pizza again but a different one and open faced tuna sandwiches.

The following weekend I will be doing it again for three days followed by a day of packing for the trip home on February 12.

Read more...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

64rth ROW80 Check-In

A Round of Words in 80 Days
Round 4 2012

The writing challenge that knows you have a life
My goals are all time investment and are detailed on the  ROW80 page   I keep track of the time invested with a Google Doc spreadsheet linked on the goals page and also in each check-in along with a screenshot of the most recent days.

These check-in posts will contain any commentary I have about encounters with the goals since the previous check-in and any relevant links.

Below the commentary is my current reading list for the READ CRAFT goal.



It was a week ago that I determined that the best place to squeeze the extra time out of my days for reading fiction-- since fiction writers must read fiction--was by putting serious limits on how long I spent prepping and writing blog posts.  My mantra became:

BLOGGING NEEDS BOUNDARIES.

And just for an experiment I put a 1 hour time limit on post prep for the week just to see if I could and what I would learn by trying.

I did manage to get seven posts in a row done in under one hour but twice I had to change course after putting over half an hour in on one concept and realizing I could not complete it in less than two hours so I switched course and put up LOLcats with brief personal journal type comments instead of the book review on Wednesday and the update on the crocheted crafter's tote on Thursday.

In the course of the week I garnered enough fiction reading time for one complete 360 odd page literary novel in under three days and half of a Jan Karon novel.  Some of the extra reading time I did devote to more READ CRAFT as I'm currently reading some that are checked out of the Longview library and can't go home with me next month.

And just as I feared once I loosened the reins on fiction reading it started to run loose like a spirited horse   On the second and third day of reading that literary novel I started picking it up instead of the crochet for those odd moments of waiting--for browser pages to load, for microwave to ding, for Mom to finish lunch.  And often forgot to put it back down again.

I learned while prepping the book review on Wednesday--the one I backed off on--that I need to establish new protocols to make them quicker to prep and write.  Most important would be to write the review within a few days of finishing the book and preferably before getting my brain involved in another novel.  So ideally on the same or very next day.

Next in importance is that writing the review and all of the other prep for putting a post together are two different tasks using two very different mind modes.  Possibly three if I separate out the hunter/gather stage from the jigsaw puzzle stage.

For the hunter/gather stage I am collecting images, links, quotes and facts.  For a book review that would be cover and author image, author bio, author web page, book blurb from cover or publisher's site, quotes from reviews and maybe a book trailer video to embed.  It occurred to me that I could probably collect all of that for up to ten books in one hour if I was doing only that.

The jigsaw puzzle stage is the prepping of the post itself that entails plugging all of those elements into the template I have for book reviews.  I'm confidant I could put four or five of those together in under an hour if all of the elements are already collected.  Including plugging in the already written reviews.

Writing the review like all other writing is another story.  I've identified several things that ought to ease their production:

  • Do it relatively soon after finishing the story as I said above.  
  • Do it when I'm not feeling the pressure of getting posted--at least the rough draft.  
  • Take notes on my thoughts as I'm reading and book mark or take down names and quotes I might want.  With page numbers!  You would not believe how many partially prepped reviews I have in my note ap that are missing something crucial like that and since the books were usually library books I'd have to send for them again to retrieve the quote, page number, character's name or other fact.


So my goal for the next week--besides maintaining the Ys in the spreadsheet--is to continue the 1 hour boundary on post prep and give most of that time saved to reading fiction as I did this past week but add to that the development of those protocols.  Especially establishing good physical and electronic note taking and storage so that I am not fumbling around for the tools when the thoughts come to me nor rifling through a chaos of paper and pixels when the time comes to put the jigsaw of the post together.

Have I been clear why I see this as a ROW80 issue?  It seems obvious to me that it is all about serving the fiction writing.  First by reading more fiction and second by forcing the bloated blogging back inside reasonable boundaries so that it is also in service to the writing instead of the thing demanding to be served.

For the curious: this post did not comply with the 1 hour boundary.  *sigh*  I got kinda lost in the thoughts as I mused about the lessons learned over the week.  And then the draft of the section between the spreadsheet and the READ CRAFT went through several edits and rewrites for clarification.  I've gone over by an hour.  But I still have an hour for fiction reading if I post now--1:30am.


READ CRAFT:

Currently Reading

What to Do When There's Too Much to Do by Laura Stack (Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list)
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Go by Les Edgerton
Write Good or Die! edited by Scott Nicholson (a collection of essays by inde authors.  many of them self-published)  
The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff I left this book at home so I can't continue until I return in mid February but I don't want to remove it so I'll just use strikethru for now.

What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller Net Galley a NF that purports to answer many puzzles in the Austen novels. Since this discusses writing and techniques of fiction
Jung and the Tarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols Since I'm reading this for an understanding of character type and the language of symbol understood by our unconscious as well as research for a character who is a Tarot reader
13 Ways of Looking at a Novel by Jane Smiley  This was one of the 24 items I checked out of the Longview library on my sister's card last Thursday.
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.  Found this while spelunking the stacks looking for the Smiley book.  Who knew.  Dick was a mystic.  I've only read one of his novels and a few short stories but now I've got to try to find and read everything!


Recently Read:

A Cheap and Easy Guide to Self-publishing eBooks by Tom Hua read this online
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg  Just finished this last fall and wrote an overview of it for that check-in along with my musings on how to apply what I learned..  This is where I've been getting the most help with learning how to recognize a habit, determine if it is desirable and if so maximize it but if not change it.




Read more...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Forays In Fiction: Author Guest Post--Khanh Ha

Last week I reviewed the novel Flesh. Today I'm honored to lend Joystory to its author Khanh Ha for a discussion about the techniques of fiction writing.



4 Things You Should Know About Writing Fiction

by Khanh Ha


1. Write what you know.

It takes an extraordinary skill for a writer to write in a voice other than his own, considering his race, his ethnic background, his years spent in the said environment that serves as the locale of his novel.

Writers like Chang-rae Lee, Ha Jin write strictly from their upbringing background through their protagonists. So the Korean voice, the Chinese voice from their works ring true. I take my hat to Arthur Golden (Memoirs of a Geisha) who put himself (a white male) in the place of a Japanese female as a geisha and, kudos to him, succeeded where many others have failed. But it took him 12 years to write such a novel, having gone through three major rewrites to change the POV, third to first.

2. What makes a novel interesting?

It’s the scenes. Each scene must have drama. Or it must set up drama. But more importantly, you have to be excited about the scenes you write. If you don’t feel excited about them, do you expect your readers to get excited when they read them?

Scenes that don’t have much drama are filled with trivialities, tepid dialogue, which neither show much about characterization nor advance the plot. Consequently, they don’t sustain the story line. What is the most frequently cited reason by agents and editors for their rejection of a manuscript? The pace or intensity flags in several places. In other words, the novel fails to hold interest.

Whenever you start struggling with a scene, it’s a good indicator of a potential problem. The next thing you do is try to get through such a scene. Then, unavoidably it will be there like a blank sheet in your manuscript. Many novelists tend to write certain scenes for the sake of keeping the novel alive rather than giving the novel the vitality that sparks it. They hope readers would read everything they wrote. Many novelists spend so much time and efforts in researching the materials for their novels, and consequently they fall victim to these materials. When too much of researched information appears in a novel, it’s non-fiction taking over fiction. The novel bogs down. The readers start skipping pages. A skilled novelist, on the other hand, uses his researched materials discriminatingly. He only uses tidbits of such information in places where they belong. He uses them where they can enhance his characterization, the pacing of his story line, the mood of his chosen scenes.

Next time when you don’t feel like getting up in the morning to face a lukewarm scene, ask yourself: does it really belong?

3. Revising your novel.

You finished a chapter.

Now go back and fine-tune it—add, delete—what needs to go in, be taken out. Repair the characters. Do it when your mind is still fresh with the scenes and the characters of that chapter. However, you must be unbiased (which is hard toward what you’ve just written), detached (which is harder from what you’ve just built), so you can see your own creative flaws.

Or it will be hellish after the novel has been written to go back to fix the flaws either on your own courage, or at an editor’s request.

4. On characterization and hard scene.

Unlike an actor who plays just his role, an author plays all his characters’ roles, like a man who plays chess against himself.

You can imagine characters. Yet until you write them out, you haven’t known them. Put them in motion. Let them interact with one another. Let them live in some environment. It’s then that you begin to explore your characters’ depths. If you ask me what’s the hardest part in writing a novel, I’ll tell you: characterization. That’s what separates a literary novel from a potboiler. Characters shape a story line, not the other way around. You can’t think up a plot and shoehorn your characters into it. If you do, you are writing a potboiler. In fact, well-developed characters create a more convincing story line, even shaping it or altering it against your original vision. Think about that!

Writing is just like any normal part of our daily life. It ebbs and flows. The worst thing to a writer isn’t writer’s block but illness, prolonged, unbearable illness that can really affect his writing. Other than that, as Hemingway once said, there will be days when you have to drill rock and then blast it out with charges. When that happens, just take a break, do something else and let your battery be recharged.

There are no hard scenes to write. Really. Those so-called difficult scenes are what writers make them out to be with their paranoia. So before they can write such scenes, their anxiety has already killed their creativity to write them.



 Khanh Ha the author of Flesh was born in Hue, the former capital of Vietnam.  During his teen years he began writing short stories which won him several awards in the Vietnamese adolescent magazines.  He graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor's degree in Journalism.  He is at work on a new novel.

Visit the author at: http://www.authorkhanhha.com


See my review of Khanh Ha's novel Flesh





Follow the blog tour for more reviews, giveaways, author interviews and guest posts: 

http://www.virtualauthorbooktours.com/





Read more...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Burrs On Your Furs? Just Purr

moar LOLs:  see  vote  caption  share



Once again my planned post for today could not be completed in the allotted hour so I'm improvising.  I made this LOL for a niece whose birthday was today.  It is her mother for whom my Secret Santa crochet project was for and today was the day I was intending to have another update on the progress of this overdue gift.

Last week I stated my hope that I would have the Mushroom rounds on all five of the strips for the second panel and maybe even have them joined together into the panel.  Nope.  Still have the single crochet round and the loops round on one strip left plus half the loops round on another strip.

I could have still set up the photo shoot and got pictures of the progress I did make since last Thursday but I decided I'd rather use the time differently since it wouldn't look that dramatically different from last week's photo.

Has most of my posts this past week indicate, my focus has been on making more time for reading fiction again.  That has been working so well many other things are dropping away.  Crochet was one of them in the last three days.  I started picking up the novel instead of the crochet during those odd moments of waiting for browser tabs to load  microwaves to ding and the sandman to bring me his dreams.

I read an entire literary novel of over 300 pages in under three days for the first time in many many months.  I guess that was a huge plus but the opportunity cost was higher than I'd hoped.  I need to watch the balance between the several passions of my life.

Read more...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yup! Knew This Would Happen.


moar LOLz--see  vote  caption  share


Give them an inch and they take a million miles.

I was working on a book review for a previously finished novel but I kept getting sucked back into the novel I've been reading the last two days, picking it up while waiting on pages to load and then forgetting to put it back down.

I used up my allotted hour for prepping a post--the new standard I'm trying to establish to make room for reading and writing fiction.  So this will have to do.

Read more...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

63rd ROW80 Check-In

A Round of Words in 80 Days
Round 4 2012

The writing challenge that knows you have a life
My goals are all time investment and are detailed on the  ROW80 page   I keep track of the time invested with a Google Doc spreadsheet linked on the goals page and also in each check-in along with a screenshot of the most recent days.

These check-in posts will contain any commentary I have about encounters with the goals since the previous check-in and any relevant links.

Below the commentary is my current reading list for the READ CRAFT goal.




My check-in posts for the last week or so have been on the theme of needing to read more fiction and trying to figure out how to give it the space in my schedule and yet keep it from taking over.

In the process of contemplating what things were using up time I discovered, not for the first time, that writing and prepping my daily blog posts were the worst time and energy and creativity hogs.  I noted the irony of claiming to be a fiction writer while blogging was being allotted more time than fiction file work and fiction reading was being pushed into the hours of exhaustion just before sleep.  I determined that:

BLOGGING NEEDS BOUNDARIES.

Since writing that line Saturday night I have monitored my time while working on blog posts and give myself the treat of extra fiction reading with the time saved.  Both Sunday and Monday evenings I was posted before 11pm and then spent the next three to four hours reading.  The first hour or so was NF for ROW80 READ CRAFT but I was able to switch to fiction before I was mentally exhausted and my eyes were burning.

I won't be able to do that every night as often I still have several ROW80 tasks to fullfill after posting.  But it felt good to do it two nights running.  And was actually not the first multi-hour late night fiction reading of late as last week I had an ARC to finish for a blog tour.

Today was one of those days life got in the way.  My sister who cares for my Mom had to go spend the day in the hospital with my other sister who was having emergency surgery and that left me on duty for Mom's meals and keeping her company until she goes to bed about 9pm.  So I still need to do READ CRAFT and FICTION FILES.  I already put the Y's in for the screenshot but that's because I KNOW I will get it done before midnight as it is looking like this will be posted before 10--again under an hour!.

And then I'll be free to read fiction again for a couple hours.

READ CRAFT:

Currently Reading

What to Do When There's Too Much to Do by Laura Stack (Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list)
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Go by Les Edgerton
Write Good or Die! edited by Scott Nicholson (a collection of essays by inde authors.  many of them self-published)  
The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff I left this book at home so I can't continue until I return in mid February but I don't want to remove it so I'll just use strikethru for now.

What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller Net Galley a NF that purports to answer many puzzles in the Austen novels. Since this discusses writing and techniques of fiction
Jung and the Tarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols Since I'm reading this for an understanding of character type and the language of symbol understood by our unconscious as well as research for a character who is a Tarot reader
13 Ways of Looking at a Novel by Jane Smiley  This was one of the 24 items I checked out of the Longview library on my sister's card last Thursday.
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.  Found this while spelunking the stacks looking for the Smiley book.  Who knew.  Dick was a mystic.  I've only read one of his novels and a few short stories but now I've got to try to find and read everything!


Recently Read:

A Cheap and Easy Guide to Self-publishing eBooks by Tom Hua read this online
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg  Just finished this last fall and wrote an overview of it for that check-in along with my musings on how to apply what I learned..  This is where I've been getting the most help with learning how to recognize a habit, determine if it is desirable and if so maximize it but if not change it.




Read more...

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Share what you (are, have been, are about to, hope to be) reading or reviewing this week. Sign Mr Linky at Book Journey and visit other Monday reading roundups.

The sections of this template:

Intro (here)
My Week in Review (list of books finished and links to bookish posts in the previous week)
Reading Now (my current reading list broken up into NF and Fiction)
Upcoming (scheduled reviews and blog tours and list of finished books awaiting reviews)
Recently (links to bookish posts in the last few weeks)
New Arrivals: (lists of recently acquired ARC broken up into snail mail, email and Net Gallery)
ARC in waiting (a list that is getting shamefully long)

My Week in Review:

Flesh by Khanh Ha  Review posted last Wednesday.

Flesh is a very dark and disturbing story and yet, still, suffused with hope like a sandy shore on the edge of a dank jungle shimmering under a full moon....The prose often has the cadences and imagery of poetry and shifts between scenes having the surreal quality of dreams and those with fast-paced action. Khanh Ha's meticulous attention to detail in every scene, his dedication to bringing all five of the senses into play is yet another way he engages with the theme and in this way draws the reader in and tethers them by the sinews and fibers of their very flesh. This story grips and won't let go even after the last page is turned.

Be sure and check back this Friday for an Author Guest Post on the subject of fiction writing.

Friday Forays in Fiction: The Modern Word  In which I shared a favorite web site devoted to modern and post modern literary fiction--meta fiction, magic realism, surrealism and other types of pushing against the envelope of form and function--the writers like Joyce, Garcia Marquez, Borges, Pynchon and Byatt who know how to put the zing in amaze.

Finished reading:

Flesh by Khanha --a novel--January.  Review  Jan 16 and Author Guest Post Jan 25

Reading Now:

Non-Fiction:

Most of these I plug way in at a snail's pace--a couple pages or chapters per week as that is my preferred way to read non-fic.  It sticks with me longer. I'm closing in on the finish line for several but as I get close on one I tend to add two or three more. There are some not listed here because I don't read in them weekly.

Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Go by Les Edgerton (Part of my ROW80 reading in craft list)
Get Your Loved One Sober by Robert Meyers (Research for a fiction WIP)
What to Do When There's Too Much to Do by Laura Stack (Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list)
And So It Goes by Charles J. Sheilds a bio of Kurt Vonnegut.  (I've posted about this biography of Kurt Vonnegut several time in a kind of reading journal. It is past time for another.  Part of the fun I'm having reading this is in stopping to read the stories he wrote as the narrative reaches the point where he writes them. Since this is an author bio this will also be on my ROW80 reading list )
This Mobius Strip of Ifs by Mathias Freese (I've posted a reading journal post for this collection of personal essays also.  It is past time for another.)
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller Net Galley a NF that purports to answer many puzzles in the Austen novels. Since this discusses writing and tecniques of fiction I'll be adding this to my ROW80 reading list
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff So part of my ROW80 reading list. Am temporarilly putting a strikethru on this as I left it at home so won't be reading in again until mid February
Jung and the Tarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols Since I'm reading this for an understanding of character type and the language of symbol understood by our unconscious this will be on my ROW80 reading list
13 Ways of Looking at a Novel by Jane Smiley  This was one of the 24 items I checked out of the Longview library on my sister's card last Thursday.
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.  Who knew.  Dick was a mystic.  I've only read one of his novels and a few short stories but now I've got to try to find and read everything!

Fiction:

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness  (audio from library)  Was listening to this while working on this Xmas crochet project and have not gotten back to it since Christmas.  If I wait too much longer I'm going to have to restart it yet again.  Or at least back up a ways to reorient.
After: The Shock by Scott Nicholson  This is post apocalyptic horror with zombies.    I anticipated enjoying this even tho zombies are not my favorite horror theme because I really enjoyed his The Red Church and I am but probably not to the same degree.
Losses by Robert Wexelblatt
The Civilized World by Susi Wyss (another a Tree book ARC that got lost in the mix before I'd finished it.  Have not posted a review for this one either and can't remember when I received it but it had to be at least a year ago before I started packing for our move and likely before 2011 NaNo when I typically stop reading fiction while I'm so intensely writing it.  This is a collection of interlocking short stories set in South Africa and I remember I was quite enjoying it.  I've had to start it over.)
Lulu by Nancy Friday from NetGalley  I started this one when I realized the ARC was about to time out on me.  And then didn't finish it in time.  That is a frustration with NetGalley for me.  Will have to hope one of the libraries I have access to has a copy now.
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.  This is one of the library books I checked out at the Longview library two weeks ago.  I started it last night.
A Light in the Window by Jan Karon.  Book two of the Mitford series.  I started reading the first book aloud to Mom last spring and after I left they tracked down an audio book of it and Mom finished listening to it and then my sister discovered her friend had the whole set in paperback and she borrowed this one and started reading it aloud to Mom at bedtime.  They were on chapter five or six when I first got here and I was supposed to catch up and then take over but I had too much ARC reading on my plate. Now they are on chapter 11 and I've just started it.  I also found the audio book at the Longview library and put it on hold for my sister to pick up this week

Seriously.  I need to reinstate the rule of one novel at a time.

Upcoming:


Blog Tours:

Flesh by Khanha --a novel--January.  Review  Jan 16 and Author Guest Post Jan 25
Scammed by Art Maines   Review  January 30.
The Eighth Wonder by Kimberly S. Young.  A novel.  Review Feb 6
Before You Say I Do Again by Benjamin Berkley  Review Feb 8
Against My Will by Benjamin Berkley Review  Feb 20
Creature Features by Tim Rowland  Review Mar 12



Books I've Finished Awaiting Reviews:


At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon  (the ebook I was reading aloud to my Mom while staying there in March and April. These short little lighthearted chapters are almost like stand-alone short stories with beloved characters and make great bedtime reading for adults wanting pleasant dreams)

The Land of Decoration by Grace McClean
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg   Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list.   I discussed this in such detail in my mid-week ROW80 check-in post it was practically a review and I'll probably copy/paste much of what I said there into the review.


The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan This was a Net Galley ARC.  It will be archived on Net Galley on January 8th it's pub date and tho I finished it last week I was unable to get the review posted and now I have the two blog tour posts to put up this week so for the third or forth time I'm not going to get my feedback recorded at Net Galley before the feedback page for the item is closed to me.  tsk tsk tsk.

Never Give in to Fear by Marti MacGibbon  This was a NetGalley ARC but later I picked it up for Kindle when it was free on Amazon.  I began it in Adobe Digital Editions and when that timed out on me switched to the Kindle for PC.  This was a memoir of an addict's decent into the abyss and rise back out again and was quite engrossing.


Recently:

___Reviews and Bookish Posts:


My Journey As a Combat Medic by Patrick Thibeault  A memoir.  My review from Tuesday Jan 8 and the author interview on Wednesday Jan 9.

A History of the Present Illness by Lousie Aronson --Net Galley. It reads like literary NF a bit like Oliver Sacks but Net Galley lists it as Fiction. It is a collection of short stories set in medical care facilities in the SF Bay area.)

Another bookish post: Friday Forays in Fiction: The Role of the Library  In which I discuss the importance of the library for story lovers both readers and writer and bemoan the still truncated hours of our local library system and scold those who would argue that libraries are becoming obsolete and thus funding for them less important.

Later on the same theme: Do We Still Need Libraries?



The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton by Angela Shelton

 This was one of my favorite ARCs of 2012.

If Dr. Seuss had written a novel it would be just like this--whimsical, charming, colorful as an artist's palette, with moral values wrapped in parables like peaches in whipped cream, with epic struggles of good against evil and full of the wonder and wisdom only ever comprehended by the heart of a child.  This story will speak to every child heart aged 8 to 88.






New Arrivals:

By snail mail:

Before You Say I Do Again by Benjamin Berkley

By email:


from NetGalley


ARC in waiting:

Tree Books:

The Variations by John Donatich
The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith   My husband read this and loved it and is after me to read it so he can talk about it.
The Hunger Angel by Herta Muller  Nobel winner!!
Skios by Michael Frayn
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
The Sadness of the Samurai by Victor del Arbo
Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman
Winter Journal by Paul Auster a memoir from an American literary figure that really excites me.
We Sinners by Hanna Pylvaine.   It's another story exploring the impact on family life of a fundamentalist religion.  One of the themes I'm drawn to like Pooh to honey.
Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010 compiled by The Organization Breaking the Silence
A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks


Ebooks:

____By email:

After: The Shock by Scott Nicholson
Losses by Robert Wexelblatt  This arrived a couple months ago but I somehow neglected to put include it in this list before


____From Net Galley:


A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller
Never Give in to Fear by Marti MacGibbon
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Unloched by Candace Lemon-Scott
Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy 
by Emily Bazelon
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
With or Without You A Memoir by Domenica Ruta
The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron
The Book of Why by Nicholas Montemarano



If anyone reading this states a preference I may let it weigh my decision as to what I begin next from the above list.

Read more...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Serenity #320

see moar kittehs: vote, share, caption

No need to file a missing persons.

I'll find my way back.

 Eventually.

Read more...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

62nd ROW80 Check-In

A Round of Words in 80 Days
Round 4 2012

The writing challenge that knows you have a life
My goals are all time investment and are detailed on the  ROW80 page   I keep track of the time invested with a Google Doc spreadsheet linked on the goals page and also in each check-in along with a screenshot of the most recent days.

These check-in posts will contain any commentary I have about encounters with the goals since the previous check-in and any relevant links.

Below the commentary is my current reading list for the READ CRAFT goal.



In Wednesday's check-in I discussed my tendency to treat fiction reading as a treat that I deny myself until my *real* work is done and how that makes less sense in light of fiction writing and book blogging being the focus of my main goals which should qualify fiction reading as real work.  I also contemplated putting FICTION READING in the ROW80 GOALS and spreadsheet as the most likely way for it to get the same respect.  But as I said then, I'm quite leery of doing that because I do know myself and stories.  I have little self-discipline in putting it back down so the same trick I use with the time-investment goals would work against me if I used it with READ FICTION.

I know that I will often stick with a task once begun until I feel a sense of completion which is why telling myself I'm required to do 15  or 30 minutes a day on this or that task is a way of setting myself up for the potential of double or triple that amount of time invested and a completed task or significant progress on a project at the end of an hour or two.

But when it comes to reading fiction I don't need to be tricked into getting started.  I need to protect all those other columns from having their time poached by fiction reading.

So for now I'm not going to make it an official time investment goal.  I am going to treat it as an issue that is on my radar in the way each of the goals that have been added began and in the way I learned from reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg last year.  I found invaluable his advice on how to observe your current behavior and analyse it in light of the behavior you wish to establish in its place so that you can use the natural power of our ability to put repetitive tasks on autopilot to create healthy habits and increase productivity.

For the next week or so then I will be watching to see certain things like: how many hours am I awake before the ROW80 GOALS have their Ys?  Are there more ways to cut back on the amount of time it takes to write and prep blog posts?  This is important because posting is often the task using the largest block of time and usually the last major task I complete before I start winding down to sleep thus fiction reading tends to get relegated to that hinterland and I tend to fall asleep over the book or netbook screen in less than half an hour.

This isn't the first time blogging has risen it's head as an issue since beginning ROW80 last April.  All of the current ROW80 time investment goals had to contend with it.  I once considered letting go of my insistence on daily posts.  I've implemented things like templates, memes and themes assigned to days that are supposed to lessen the amount of time spent prepping or even just deciding what the day's topic will be.  My hope was to bring them in under an hour but I'm still finding it averaging well over twice that.

Time spent blogging still averages more than FICTION FILES get (which includes scene writing as well as notes, outlines, editing, character sketches, story boarding, mind mapping, time lines etc) and I think that represents a problem.  If fiction writing is supposedly my passion why am I allotting it less time than blogging?

Succinctly put, to give both fiction writing and fiction reading the primacy they require in a fiction writer's life:

BLOGGING NEEDS BOUNDARIES.


READ CRAFT:

Currently Reading

What to Do When There's Too Much to Do by Laura Stack (Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list)
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Go by Les Edgerton
Write Good or Die! edited by Scott Nicholson (a collection of essays by inde authors.  many of them self-published)  
The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff I left this book at home so I can't continue until I return in mid February but I don't want to remove it so I'll just use strikethru for now.


Recently Read:

A Cheap and Easy Guide to Self-publishing eBooks by Tom Hua read this online
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg  Just finished this last fall and wrote an overview of it for that check-in along with my musings on how to apply what I learned..  This is where I've been getting the most help with learning how to recognize a habit, determine if it is desirable and if so maximize it but if not change it.




Read more...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Forays in Fiction: The Modern Word



Today I'd like to share one of my favorite sites for nearly a decade: The Modern Word

This site is devoted to post-modern literature--meta-fiction and magic realism, surrealism, and other literary isms that push the boundaries of form and function.  James Joyce, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Borges, Umberto Eco, Thomas Pynchon, Franz Kafka among others.  Besides collecting reviews, trivia, bio and bibliography on these authors and their works the site acts as a portal to the rest of the web for anything by or about the author and their works.

I have been partial to this kind of fiction for a long time but also quite intimidated by it.  The stories of this type are mazes, labyrinths of complex thought for which one needs a string to find ones way around inside.  The Modern Word provides the string.

It had been some time since I visited the site for some reason and I noticed there seems to have been no updates for over a year.  I do hope they aren't letting the site go fallow.

Read more...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Crocheted Crafter's Tote Continuing Progress




Today I made the single crochet row all the way around the 96 inches of the third strip for the panel that will form the back/top.front flap and made it more than half way up one side with the six-chain loop row that is for joining the strip to it's neighbor.  With two of the strips for that panel already having those rows complete that leaves completing the loop row on this (left vertical strip in pic) and both rows on the two outer strips before I can join the strips into the panel.  I'm hoping by this time next week.

After that the bulk of the work will be in the Mobius strip that will form the bottom/sides/carry strap.  I have that about three inches wide now after adding nearly a third of an inch in the last two days and am aiming for twelve.  That will probably take another month because not only do I estimate another sixty hours in the Mobius the thread I ordered for it right after Christmas is waiting for me at home where I won't be until mid February.  Though if I use up the two Twig I have with me I may go ahead and try to buy a couple more while still here at Mom's.

I really, really, really want to be done by early to mid March.  February 25 will make it two months past due and I would like to be able to have it done by then but I won't be back home until February 13th or 14th which would leave me only 11 days for what will probably be another 50 hours of work including all the finishing touches I have planned--joining the Mobius to the panels and adding pockets and buttons and tucking all the stray tails.

I want to finish sooner rather than later not just because this Secret Santa project is shamefully overdue already but because I won't allow myself to start the two baby afghans I need to finish by mid June until I have finished this tote bag or at least done all I can do until I get back home.

Read more...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review: Flesh by Khanh Ha

Flesh
by Khanh Ha
Pub: Black Heron Press
368p

Flesh is a very dark and disturbing story and yet, still, suffused with hope like a sandy shore on the edge of a dank jungle shimmering under a full moon.  Set in colonial era Vietnam near the end of the 19th century, the story begins as a teenaged boy witnesses the beheading of his father.  Soon after he and his baby brother fall ill with smallpox.  He survives tho severely scarred.  His brother does not.

For the following several years he is focused on gathering the frayed and severed threads of his family into a new whole.  First he must retrieve his father's skull and place it with the body buried in the swampy soil behind their hut so the the spirit is not stuck in limbo. Later he begins a term of indentured service for the purpose of acquiring a dry and auspicious burial plot in which to move the bones of his father and brother.

Along the way he encounters friends, allies and enemies many of whom are not who they seem to be.  He is faced at every turn by the temptations of the flesh that threaten to distract him from his course.  The theme of the story implied by the title is expressed by the interplay between these fleeting allures and the enduring nature of the familial ties rooting his quest.  It is not just the one versus the other but how each influences the other across the generations and the years.  Our lives here on this earth are grounded in the flesh.  We are tied to it and to one another and to the past and the future by the demands and the desires of the flesh.

The prose often has the cadences and imagery of poetry and shifts between scenes having the surreal quality of dreams and those with fast-paced action.  Khanh Ha's meticulous attention to detail in every scene, his dedication to bringing all five of the senses into play is yet another way he engages with the theme and in this way draws the reader in and tethers them by the sinews and fibers of their very flesh.  This story grips and won't let go even after the last page is turned.

From the Publishers:


Set in Tonkin (now northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century, Flesh tells the story of a boy who witnesses the execution, by beheading, of his father, a notorious bandit, and sets out to recover his father's head, and then find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. A coming-of-age story of brutal self-awakening and also a tender love story, Flesh takes the reader into places, both dark and wonderful, in the human condition where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy can bring you the most solace.

Khanh Ha writes of the physical world with such sensuousness that he will make the reader's heart ache. At the same time, though Flesh is his first novel, his knowledge of the human psyche is that of a fully mature writer. The title refers to temptation-the temptation of the flesh. But it refers equally to the obligations of kinship, the connections between us and those to whom we are related, even if we would choose not to be.


What they are saying: 


"In this dark, violent, and poetic saga, with cinematic vignettes that make it read like a screenplay, characters are not who they seem. While this makes for a thrilling finale, what lingers . . . is Ha's descriptive prose."- Publishers Weekly
"Readers who enjoy epic sagas set in faraway lands will find absorbing satisfaction here."- Library Journal

"Read Flesh to lose yourself in a vividly-described colonial Vietnam, with its poverty and hopelessness, its people's industrious nature at work to better their lives and the lives of those dear to them, all wrapped up in beautiful prose." -Drey's Library

"Flesh, Khanh Ha's debut novel, is almost dreamlike. A dream in that early hours of a hot morning where you are still in between sleeping and waking up. Ha is a talented writer; he does a wonderful job setting the dark, yet poetic, mood and a fine job describing settings in vivid, smells, colorful imagery."- Seattle Post Intelligencer

FLESH brings Vietnam - at around the turn of the last century - to life. Life was hard, and this book does not spare us. The book opens with a scene . . . an execution. Ha's powers of description are good, and we are brought into the scene and witness this act. I would recommend this book. Part of what I (and many of you, I suspect) love about reading is being whisked off to an exotic place for an adventure. And Flesh fills the Bill!"- LibbyBooksBlog

"A lush, poetic tale, takes readers on a journey far beneath the surface of a land most have only glimpsed superficially in clich├ęd Hollywood films. . . .readers willing to venture off the beaten path to an unfamiliar land will find great pleasure exploring Flesh."- Book Reviews by Elizabeth White
"The story is a sensual one. . . . The prose of Khanh Ha's debut is laden with sensory details that pull readers into multi-dimensional scenes. . . . The outstanding element of this novel is the solid invitation extended to readers, to enter this world which Khanh Ha has created in Flesh."- Buried in Print

"This book was really something to read!. . . Somewhere along the way, it broke my heart. . . . The author did not sugar coat this story one bit! It is so unlike anything I have ever read. . . . It blew my mind towards the end!" -Mary Bearden ,Mary's Cup of Tea Blog

"Unique. The ending was amazing. . . . Ha has the writing skills to make the reader imagine every scene he sets, each mood, every setting. The prose felt poetic at times. Author Khanh Ha is truly a talented writer. I enjoyed the novel and it sits on my shelf as a DARN GOOD READ."- Reading Rendezvous Reviewz

"The realism of the book certainly made an impression on me. . . . Ha is a master at detailed descriptions to the point that you can see it happening the way the author intended you to. The brutality in the book was descriptive but not to the point that I had to "look away."-Ruth Hill, My Devotional Thoughts



Khanh Ha was born in Hue, the former capital of Vietnam.  During his teen years he began writing short stories which won him several awards in the Vietnamese adolescent magazines.  He graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor's degree in Journalism.  He is at work on a new novel.

Visit the author at: http://www.authorkhanhha.com


Come back on January 25 for a Guest Post from Khanh Ha on the topic of Techniques of Fiction Writing.

Follow the blog tour for more reviews, giveaways, author interviews and guest posts: 

http://www.virtualauthorbooktours.com/

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