Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Signings for Motherless Soul

Motherless Soul has been out for more than a year now and it has turned out to be an amazing year. Of everything I've been through, including starting this blog, the most fun has been the book signings. The amount of people that have come out to individual events has ranged from under ten to over fifty, but every signing has been a chance to meet unique people and to discuss the themes of my book with my readers.

The topics include parent child relationships and the eternal nature of the human soul. There have also been some very interesting discussions about the Civil War, since much of this "Past Lives Mystery" is set in that era and my great grandfather fought in that war and won the National Medal of Honor.

My next two signings are in Winston-Salem, NC:
1. On January 12 from 12 noon to 1:00 I'll be talking about Motherless Soul at the central library on fifth street.
2. On January 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 I'll be holding a signing at Barnhill's at 811 Burke St. This event will also be a wine tasting, so it should be a good way to spend a Friday night.

For those who can't make the Winston events here are a couple of video links: one that talks about my book signings and another that is a reading from the book.

NC Book Tour

Reading from Motherless Soul

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

Cold Sassy TreeCold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cold Sassy Tree is the story of Will Tweedy, a young man growing up in a rural Georgia town in the early 1900's. There is an emphasis on his relationship with his grandfather, who is the owner of the general store and a very important person in the town of Cold Sassy.

Olive Ann Burns's writing is clear and sharp with a simple style that makes its own comments about the simple lifestyle of those years. To me it had the feel of a Zane Grey novel.

The story kept me turning the pages, especially toward the end. But it was Burns's handling of bigotry that most intrigued me. It felt as if it was a very accurate portrayal of life in the rural south during that time. There were African Americans in Cold Sassy, but for the most part they were ignored by the whites. They were the cleaning ladies, cooks, and helping hands who were always available to help, but never asked for opinions. I felt as if there was an entirely different society existing in that town, one the readers don't get to see. That was one type of bigotry.

The other example of bigotry came in the relationship between members of the town's society and the mill workers (Lint Heads). The mill workers were poor and often dirty. Burns had one of her characters point out that they were dirty because they couldn't afford bathrooms the way the townspeople could. Will has a relationship with Lightfoot McLendon, a mill girl, and gets caught kissing her. He keeps saying he wants to go back to see her and talk to her, but the reactions of his family along with his own prejudices seem to be too much for him.

Will's grandfather is the only one who seems to be brave enough to set his own rules to live by. This is true in his personal life as well as in the way he deals with the mill workers. It is wonderful to see him through Will's eyes.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Interview of Jen Knox - Author of Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs was the first work I read by any of the other authors at All Things That Matter Press. I was blown away by the honesty in Jen's writing. Her book is a memoir of a young woman growing up in a blue collar family. She covers conflicts with her father, panic attacks she suffered through, her choice to dance at a strip club, living with a boy friend and his porn addicted father, and many other dark places she was led to through binge drinking.

Jen Knox writes both fiction and creative nonfiction. She never writes poetry, not on purpose (she asked me to include this detail), but she enjoys reading it. Jen is a graduate of Bennington's Writing Seminars and currently works as a Creative Writing professor at San Antonio College and Fiction Editor at Our Stories Literary Journal. Jen is here today to answer a few questions about her current title, Musical Chairs and her experience as an emerging writer.

Steve: Jen, tell us, what compelled you to write a memoir?
Jen: Hello. I didn't want to be bothered with plotlines. I'm kidding! I wanted to tell my story because it's a hell of a story, and although it's a hell of a story, it's not unique. Teenage girls, especially those who are prone to depression or anxiety, have it tough to begin with. There is a lot of confusion during this time, and when a person is depressed, the desire to 'escape' is prevalent. If undiagnosed, however, the dilemma compounds. It's common to seek escape. My family wasn't perfect, no, but I was not abused. Yet, I was sure that my life would be better, if only I got away from my parents. My memoir is about the tumultuous journey that follows this decision. Honestly, I did not set out to write a memoir. When I began writing, when I returned to college, I wrote fiction. Meanwhile, my personal stories were surfacing in the characters. Once a phenomenal teacher introduced me to the art of essay and memoir, I decided to give it a shot. Memoir is a tough genre, but incredibly rewarding.
Steve: In telling your story, has it made life easier or more difficult for you?
Jen: Interesting question. I can't say my life has become any easier, but I do feel as though the process of memoir writing, if taken seriously, allows more perspective on the past. I have received quite a few unsolicited diagnoses from readers. I suppose they might've been solicited, in a way, seeing as how I chose to publish, but either way, I had some really interesting responses. One man accused my father of molesting me, he said it was the sub-text he had read in the book. This did not happen, and so for my father to read this review was incredibly painful. Moreover, I have had quite a few people accuse me of being an amoral person, a person who "needs Jesus" or some other sort of saving, and this can be a little tough to take. The truth is, I'm very happy now, and I wouldn't trade my decisions for anything. My memoir was important because it gave voice to my younger self, a girl many other girls may relate to. And the positive feedback I've received, those who've told me that they have a similar story but are ashamed to share it; those who tell me that I am a tough girl for having the courage to change my lifestyle; those who have also abused alcohol or drugs, they make up for anything negative others might say. They are my audience.
Steve: What is your favorite color?
Jen: Gray-blue, like the sky just before it storms.
Steve: Did you experience writer’s block during the writing process? If so, how did you overcome it?
Jen: No. I wrote the draft in a summer. It took five years to revise and refine. I did have many days in which I didn't want to revise though, but it's my feeling that if a writer hires a ghostwriter for a memoir, it shouldn't be considered a memoir.
Steve: What advice can you give to those who suspect that they too could be suffering from some form of mental illness?
Jen: Talk to someone you trust. If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone, then write it down. Record how you feel and when you are most depressed, and then bring this information to a reputable psychologist. I am not a huge advocate of quick fixes, and I highly suggest that a person who wants a lasting cure pay close attention to how the mind works; study for yourself. The fact is, depression is not a rational thing, and so you cannot fix it with a quick, rational cure. It takes time and support. There are support groups and physical tools that will help, such as regular exercise that helped me immensely
Steve: What was the most difficult part of the writing process for Musical Chairs?
Jen: Figuring out which scenes to cut and which to include. It seems that a memoir would be easier to write than fiction, because the story is already there. But life doesn't follow a clear narrative path, and therefore a writer must impose one--this is no easy thing! The structure of memoir requires a lot of reworking and adjustment in order to maintain integrity and best tell a personal story.
Steve: Did you ever feel that by distancing yourself from your family, you might be able to avoid mental illness?
Jen: No. I feel as though distancing myself from my family did give me more appreciation for them, but I was a depressed little kid; it was with me long before I could name it. I strongly believe that mental distress, to a certain degree, is chemical. This doesn't mean that a person cannot find a personalized cure, and it doesn't mean I advocate medication as a quick fix, but it does mean that it's not wholly sociological.
Steve: How long did it take you to research, write and have your memoir published?
Jen: Five years, in total. A few months of writing; years of fact-checking and research; more years of revising.
Steve: What do you hope that your readers will take away from your book?
Jen: I hope that they will better understand what it is like for a young girl to deal with depression. I hope women will read this book, and chose to tell their own stories (in whatever way) rather than staying silent. Behaviors repeat if we don't address them, and the dangers that exist for a teenage girl will not go away. Awareness, however, can decrease a girl's odds of endangering herself.
Steve: Do you have any new books planned for publication in the next few years?
Jen: I plan to release a collection of short stories in early 2011 with All Things That Matter Press. It's entitled To Begin Again. I am currently working on a novel entitled Absurd Hunger. I hope to release this one in 2012, but I'm not sure this is realistic. We'll see.
Steve: Thank you, Jen, for your time. Musical Chairs can be purchased at at:
Check out Jen Knox's website and blog:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2)The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am enjoying Larsson's trilogy and after reading this one I'm already looking forward to the third. This was more of a traditional thriller, which some readers might like. I preferred the "Dragon Tattoo" plot, especially the hunt for Harriet Vanger. But this also had its share of interesting twists.

There were two things that I did not like about this book:

1. Very few of the plot complications were resolved. I suppose that's to draw the readers into the next book. If so, it's working with me.

2. Some of the characters accomplish things that are almost superhuman. In the realistic context of the book I found those events to be unbelievable.

But even with those objections the book pulled me in and kept me turning the pages.

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