Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins - 2/26/2010

I know it's been a while since I've posted and I apologize for being absent from you; I've missed you!  It's getting to be a very busy time of year for me, with state testing and rodeo.  I've got to make myself schedule some posts while I'm otherwise occupied.

Enjoy my Friday Fill-Ins!

1. A cup of tea might make you feel better.

2. My husband makes a place feel like home.

3. Everything has its beauty if you look deep enough.

4. Don't you just love the taste of strawberries?

5. Art makes me smile.

6. LOL I just noticed I forgot to turn off the Post button for our grades.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to working at the rodeo, tomorrow my plans include visiting the Science Fair with our second graders and Sunday, I want to rest!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins - 2/19/2010

1. Johnny Weir unfortunately is a name I don't know.

2. I haven't watched much of the 2010 Olympics.

3. And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more than the rose petals could take.

4. Call me if you get an urge.

5. Having sweet dreams is much more pleasant than waking from a nightmare.

6. What does it take to make these stomach cramps go away?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing at home with my husband, tomorrow my plans include setting up our work tent at Reliant Center in preparation for the rodeo to start and Sunday, I want to celebrate my granddaughter's birthday in Austin!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fifth Annual Flash Prose Contest

Many of you who are regular readers of my blog might remember one of my Because Of A Book guests, Lynn Goodwin.  Lynn is the author of You Want Me to do What?: Journaling for Caregivers.  She is a fan of my blog, thank you Lynn, and knows that many of my readers are also writers.  So, she emailed asking if I would let you know about a contest that she is currently hosting at Writer Advice.  I hope that some of you will participate!

Fifth Annual Flash Prose Contest


WriterAdvice,, is searching for flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction that grabs, surprises, and mesmerizes readers in fewer than 750 words. If you have a story or memoir with a strong theme, sharp images, a solid structure, and an unexpected discovery, please submit it to the WriterAdvice Flash Prose Contest.

DEADLINE: April 15, 2010

JUDGES: Former prizewinners, Gabrielle Hovendon, Lisa Shafter, Katie Flynn, and Linda Weiford are this year’s judges. Read their pieces and biographies by clicking on the Archived Contest Entries button at

First Place earns $150; Second Place earns $75; Third Place earns $50; Fourth Place earns $25; Honorable Mentions will also be published.

All entries should be typed, double-spaced and submitted in hard copy, not e-mail. Entries must be postmarked by April 15, 2010. Send them to B. Lynn Goodwin, WriterAdvice, P.O. Box 2665, Danville, CA 94526.

You may enter UP TO THREE stories. Enclose a $10 check for EACH entry made payable to B. Lynn Goodwin. This will help defray the costs of the contest. If no prizes are awarded, checks will be refunded.

Include a separate cover sheet with your name, address, phone number, current e-mail address, and each story title. Please include only your title top of each page of your story. Finalists will be asked to submit a brief biography as well as an e-mail copy of the story. Names of all winners will be announced in the summer issue of WriterAdvice,

SPECIAL PERK: All entries accompanied by an SASE will be returned with brief comments. E-mail questions, but not submissions to editor B. Lynn Goodwin at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Shade

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

by Jeri Smith-Ready
Publication Date: May 4th 2010 by Simon Pulse

When her boyfriend dies a most untimely death, Aura--who can see ghosts--is forced to reconsider her relationship with the living and dead in SHADE.

Not much of a description, but enough to have me intriguied...what about you?  Even the cover is mysterious with the darkness and just a hint of red.  I like how the title, is like a shadow on the cover.  It kind of gives the illusion of being in the shade, almost hidden from view, like the ghosts that Aura can see, but others can't.  I'm a sucker for ghost stories, so this one is right up my alley.  I'm very eager to see what happens with Aura.  She is names appropriately, don't you think?!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Because of A Book with Nancy Deville

This week I am excited to welcome writer, Nancy Deville to the blog.  Thanks to her publicist, Michelle Tennant Nicholson, for answering my request on Blogger Link Up.

Nancy Deville is a best selling writer of health books, and author of Death by Supermarket, an exposé of the food, diet and drug industries. Not one to shy away from controversy she has released her first novel, a psychological thriller. Written in the style of a memoir, Karma depicts the world of sex trafficking through the eyes of Meredith Fitzgerald, an abducted American doctor. View the trailer:


By Nancy Deville

As a child, I spent a lot of time escaping into books because as Tolstoy so aptly put it, “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” and my family hid from their misery by reading. I guess you could say that it was an unhappy accident, ha!

The book that stands out for me the most was one I read in the third grade about a little boy who becomes an ant and is adopted by ants—which back then was as thrilling as watching the Avatar infiltrate the Na’vis and learn their ways. I don’t remember the name of the book but I see from Googling that a rendition of that theme was used as the children’s film “Ant Bully” with Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, and Meryl Streep, though it was not the same story. When I finished a book as a child, I always cried at the end. Not because the ending was sad necessarily but because I was so sorry that the book was over. This is rarely case anymore. J.D. Salinger said, “There are no writers anymore. Only book selling louts and big mouths.” That kind of stung, because he was probably talking about me. Plus I don’t really agree with Salinger, even though I think that the publishing “business” has forced writers to commercialize. I probably don’t get misty as much at the end of novels because I’ve spent too many years reading nonfiction and I simply need to broaden my knowledge of contemporary fiction writers. Another thing on my list.

But back to my childhood.

Long before reaching high school I was a terrible student and along the way developed a really bad habit of reading. I went to high school in Japan on a military base. The fact that I was flunking wasn’t really on my mind. I’d mentally shut out all the kids who were on their way to college with stellar futures ahead of them, and instead was systematically reading my way through the school library as a way to tamp down the angst. There was John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, The Grapes of Wrath. He took one title from Shakespeare, The Winter of Our Discontent, which I appropriated to define my seventeenth year. (Youth is definitely wasted on the young.) I loved Pearl Buck’s beautiful sentences. I found Rabbit Run disturbing with all of John Updike’s graphic bodily-functional-sexual aberrancies. Then there was the Shinjuku English bookstore for James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and of course Herman Hesse’s Siddartha and Naricissus and Goldman. I fell into the worlds of Lawrence Durrell, D.H. Lawrence, Herman Wouk, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Irving Stone, Leon Uris, J.D. Salinger, James Michener, Henry Miller, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Harold Robbins, Gore Vidal. When I read Gone with the Wind my mother let me stay home from school to finish it. Soon afterwards, my sister and I went to see David O. Selznick’s interpretation of the story of the parallels of Scarlett O’Hara’s life to the crumbling of the Southern culture in a Tokyo theater with the adjunct Japanese soundtrack of farting, burping, slurping, and coughing. I read so much that my history teacher finally told me he wouldn’t give me a grade until I stopped reading in his class. Then he gave me the D I’d earned.

I didn’t go to college but went to India instead. When I got back to Europe ten months later, I complained to my grandma in a letter that my hair thinned (due to the subsistent diet of Indian curries prepared by untouchables). My grandma, Stella, had suffered from malnutrition because her family was poor, and had consequently lost all of her teeth, leaving her with clacking dentures that prematurely aged her. In 1942, at age thirty nine, while walking down the street in Detroit Stella had come upon a “health” lecture. From then on she lived the life of the converted, and was such a proponent of health food that she earned the kook label in the family. She had a very strong point of view about health matters, in particular the perils of processed food, going so far as to accuse a friend of murdering her husband by feeding him nothing but hot dogs. She was given to hysterical worrying and had had a peptic ulcer, but cured it by fasting on grape juice for two straight weeks. It was her habit to end a long night shift of cleaning executive offices at General Motors with home projects like juicing and canning homegrown vegetables or lying in the pitch black on her slant board, blood rushing to her brain to improve circulation as she meditated. She regularly guzzled olive oil from the bottle to “fix herself up” and knew how to deal with a myriad of conditions with various supplements and foods.

To address my “falling” hair, as she put it, Grandma immediately sent me several books by Adele Davis, Let’s Get Well, Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, Let’s Cook it Right. I read them cover-to-cover, and afterwards was extremely paranoid about Vitamin C escaping my lettuce before I could get it home from the market.

My Grandma’s cooking was a compilation of her Polish roots and her research into healthy eating (Adele Davis and others). She made homemade noodles and braided bread, dumplings, cucumber and dill salads, beets, chicken soup, pork chops, cabbage rolls, pot roasts with carrots, crepe suzettes with cottage cheese and homemade strawberry jam. I’d been living abroad in Japan, India, Spain, and then Switzerland for almost seven years by the time I returned to the States. The combined influences of Grandma, Adele Davis, and the exposure to other cultures’ real food diets defined my views on food, which ultimately led me to write health books to share what I’d learned. Over twelve years I established a voice in the real food movement, something I’m extremely proud of. At the same time, I never really wanted to just be a health book writer. My dream was always to do what the novelists did for me, which was to provide an escape, and to inspire thought. Novels like The Jungle and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, even The Little Prince instilled in me the desire to write a novel of social significance, which I think novelists need to do at least once in their career. In Karma, I took a subject that is not acceptable dinner table conversation and put a human face on it. A lot of publishers passed on Karma with the comment, “We don’t read manuscripts about sex trafficking.” Now that I’ve self published Karma, I’m beginning to think that editors misread what readers want to read about. And that definitely makes me tear up.

About Tortilla Flat - Like the knights of the Round Table, the dreamers who gather at Danny's house share joy and fellowship, triumphs and sorrows.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells
Buy it at IndieBound

About Karma - While having a seemingly harmless glass of tea at a bazaar in Istanbul, Meredith Fitzgerald, a beautiful soon-to-be married American doctor finds her privileged world turned upside down. It takes only seconds. As she s waiting for the police to come collect an abandoned gypsy girl left in her keeping, Meredith s vision starts blurring, the bazaar music turns into a high-pitched whine, and she recognizes the chloral hydrate in the tea taking hold of her body. In this gripping novel a confusing scenario grows yet more frightening as Meredith realizes that, like two and a half million women and children worldwide, she too has been abducted and swept into the dark world of the human sex trade. We watch in horror as the once confident, self-reliant doctor finds herself trafficked to Mumbai and trapped in brothel compound where she s expected to work as the doctor. But maybe, just maybe she s not as helpless as she appears. An accomplished first novel, heartfelt and compulsively readable. Written in the style of a memoir, Karma is a brilliantly crafted story of courage, friendship, and spiritual awakening.

Buy it

Monday, February 15, 2010

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday - 2/15/2010

Welcome to another edition of my combo meme In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday. You can find these hosted by some wonderful ladies: Kristi at The Story Siren and Marcia at The Printed Page, respectively. They host these memes so that book bloggers can share the books that come into their houses. I appreciate them both and hope that you will visit their blogs.

Here's what came into my house, via the mailbox...

Perchance to Dream: Theatre Illuminata #2 (ARC) by Lisa Mantchev, from Feiwel & Friends
We are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Act Two, Scene One

Growing up in the enchanted Thèâtre Illuminata, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith learned everything about every play ever written. She knew the Players and their parts, but she didn’t know that she, too, had magic. Now, she is the Mistress of Revels, the Teller of Tales, and determined to follow her stars. She is ready for the outside world.


But the outside world soon proves more topsy-turvy than any stage production. Bertie can make things happen by writing them, but outside the protective walls of the Thèâtre, nothing goes as planned. And her magic cannot help her make a decision between—

Nate: Her suave and swashbuckling pirate, now in mortal peril.

Ariel: A brooding, yet seductive, air spirit whose true motives remain unclear.

When Nate is kidnapped and taken prisoner by the Sea Goddess, only Bertie can free him. She and her fairy sidekicks embark on a journey aboard the Thèâtre’s caravan, using Bertie’s word magic to guide them. Along the way, they collect a sneak-thief, who has in his possession something most valuable, and meet The Mysterious Stranger, Bertie’s father—and the creator of the scrimshaw medallion. Bertie’s dreams are haunted by Nate, whose love for Bertie is keeping him alive, but in the daytime, it’s Ariel who is tantalizingly close, and the one she is falling for. Who does Bertie love the most? And will her magic be powerful enough to save her once she enters the Sea Goddess’s lair?

Token of Darkness by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, from Delacorte Press
Cooper Blake has everything going for him—until he wakes from a car accident with his football career in ruins and a mysterious, attractive girl by his side. Cooper doesn’t know how Samantha got there or why he can see her; all he knows is that she’s a ghost, and the shadows that surround her seem intent on destroying her.

No one from Cooper’s old life would understand what he can barely grasp himself. . . . But Delilah, the captain of the cheerleading squad, has secrets of her own, like her ability to see beyond the physical world, and her tangled history with Brent, a loner from a neighboring school who can hear strangers’ most intimate thoughts. Delilah and Brent know that Cooper is in more trouble than he realizes, and that Samantha may not be as innocent as she has led Cooper to believe. But the only way to figure out where Samantha came from will put them all in more danger than they ever dreamed possible.

Artsy-Fartsy by Karla Oceanak, from Bailiwick Press
Aldo Zelnick is the star of a new comic novel series for children. Ten-year-old Aldo lives with his family in Colorado. He's not athletic like his older brother, he's not a rock hound like his best friend, but he does like bacon. And when his artist grandmother, Goosy, gives him a sketchbook to "record all his artsy-fartsy ideas" during summer vacation, it turns out Aldo is a pretty good cartoonist. In addition to an engaging cartoon story, Artsy-Fartsy includes an illustrated glossary of fun A words used throughout the book, such as absurd, abominable, and audacious.

Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths by Moreo, Abernathy, Todd, et al., from Turning Point International for a Pump Up Your Book Promotions blog tour
This is a book of hope written by 26 authors who have reached into the depths of their souls to share the stories of their life experiences and the lessons they have learned. Overcoming heredity, environment and their own fears to make choices that led them to new adventures and better lives, these authors share their journies through pains, sorrows, trials and tribulations in the hope of giving the reader the encouragement to make better life choices.

I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It by Adam Selzer, from Delacorte Press

Algonquin “Ali” Rhodes, the high school newspaper’s music critic, meets an intriguing singer, Doug, while reviewing a gig. He’s a weird-looking guy—goth, but he seems sincere about it, like maybe he was into it back before it was cool. She introduces herself after the set, asking if he lives in Cornersville, and he replies, in his slow, quiet murmur, “Well, I don’t really live there, exactly. . . .”

When Ali and Doug start dating, Ali is falling so hard she doesn’t notice a few odd signs: he never changes clothes, his head is a funny shape, and he says practically nothing out loud. Finally Marie, the school paper’s fashion editor, points out the obvious: Doug isn’t just a really sincere goth. He’s a zombie. Horrified that her feelings could have allowed her to overlook such a flaw, Ali breaks up with Doug, but learns that zombies are awfully hard to get rid of—at the same time she learns that vampires, a group as tightly-knit as the mafia, don’t think much of music critics who make fun of vampires in reviews. . . .

Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers, from Egmont Books
When you look in a mirror, who do you see?

A boy? A girl?
A son? A daughter?
A runner? A dancer?

Whoever and whatever you see–
just put out your fist and give yourself an "I am" BAM!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Plain Kate

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Plain Kate
by Erin Bow
Publication Date: September 2010 by Arthur Levine

In a market town by a looping river there lived an orphan girl called Plain Kate …

Kate’s is a colorful world of brokenhearted magicians, wandering gypsy clans, carved charms and stolen shadows. It’s a dark world of ghosts, fog and questions. It’s a dangerous world of witch burnings, persecution and plague. Her story is a coming-of-age story, a story about family and belonging, trust and betrayal, bravery and sacrifice, death and what lies beyond. Also, there’s a talking cat in it.

You know I'm a sucker for purple covers, so this one immediately caught my eye.  Plain Kate sounds like a good read, from the synopsis.  Books with magic are very popular right now, and I'm a huge fan of the Salem witch trials, so the world of witch burnings, persecution and plague is right up my alley.

What book are you waiting to read today?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Because of A Book with Bethany North

I am pleased to bring you a writer and fellow blogger this week.  Help me welcome Bethany North to the blog today.

Bethany North is a coffee fanatic that has spent the entirety of her career cultivating and studying all of the best uses and brewing styles for optimal coffee and espresso flavor. Her specialty site for all coffee needs, supplies, and the commercial coffee maker can be found at The Coffee Bump.

Because of a Book: The Giver

Today I am a professional freelance writer, and it all happened because of a book... When I was a child, I was an avid reader, and one of my absolute favorites was The Giver. This book was written in 1993, so it was perfect in my generation for us to be required to read in school. As a young girl, I definitely read my share of fluffy literature, which is pretty much the junk food of the reading world. Nonetheless, I still love to read, so whether it was The Babysitters' Club or something more substantial, that was my entertainment.

The Giver was something that was special to me because it had a huge message behind it. Even when I was in middle school, I could understand that it was talking about something bigger, namely the anti-utopian society. At first, you delve into the book feeling a comfort in the sense of the community where no one is different, and there are also no emotions. In the end, the main character Jonas has to rebel and step outside of all of the restrictions put on him by his society so that he doesn't give away the best parts of himself.

Those are things that I didn't understand so cohesively when I was a preteen reading this book, but I actually took the time to go back and read it again last year. It still reads like an adult book, and even more so, you can see a serious message running throughout the book from a more mature perspective. As a freelance writer today, The Giver has encouraged me to put my heart into what I write. Though I don't write fictional books, I still have the opportunity to write in my own voice, offer what I care about, and even provide a theme to some of my work. The point is that you have to do what you believe in, so to take a cue from The Giver, it's important to step out in what you are passionate about!

About The Giver:  Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells
Buy it at Indiebound

The Giver is one of my favorites as well, Bethany.   Thanks for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts.

Monday, February 8, 2010

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday - 2/08/10

Welcome to another edition of my combo meme In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday.  You can find these hosted by some wonderful ladies: Kristi at The Story Siren and Marcia at The Printed Page, respectively.  They host these memes so that book bloggers can share the books that come into their houses.  I appreciate them both and hope that you will visit their blogs.

I had another light week, but got some good reads!

Alphatudes: The Alphabet of Gratitude by Michele Wahlder, from The Cadence Group for a Pump Up Your Book blog tour
Alphatudes reveals that gratitude is the unexpected, simple secret of living a joyful life. In a world obsessed with negativity, we must deliberately choose to focus on the positive. Alphatudes uses your earliest grade school victory the ABCs to help you achieve a sustainable shift in thinking that leads to contentment, optimism and peace of mind. An alphatude is defined as: a person, place or thing for which one alphabetically expresses gratitude. Filled with vibrant illustrations, Alphatudes takes you on an inspiring 26-step journey where you ll discover how to: heighten your awareness of life s daily gifts; attract opportunities with a positive mind-set; find blessings in difficult situations; and become free from worry, negativity and resentment.

Letter to My Daughter (ARC) by George Bishop, from Ballentine Books via Shelf Awareness
Dear Elizabeth,
It’s early morning and I’m sitting here wondering where you are, hoping you’re all right.

A fight, ended by a slap, sends Elizabeth out the door of her Baton Rouge home on the eve of her fifteenth birthday. Her mother, Laura, is left to fret and worry—and remember. Wracked with guilt as she awaits Liz’s return, Laura begins a letter to her daughter, hoping to convey “everything I’ve always meant to tell you but never have.”

In her painfully candid confession, Laura shares memories of her own troubled adolescence in rural Louisiana, growing up in an intensely conservative household. She recounts her relationship with a boy she loved despite her parents’ disapproval, the fateful events that led to her being sent away to a strict Catholic boarding school, the personal tragedy brought upon her by the Vietnam War, and, finally,  the meaning of the enigmatic tattoo below her right hip.

We the Children: Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School by Andrew Clements, from Atheneum Books for Young Readers
We the Children asks:  Can a kid change the course of history? 

After by Kristin Harmel, from Knopf Delacorte Dell
Lacey's world shatters when her dad is killed in a car accident. And secretly? She feels like it’s her fault. If she hadn’t taken her own sweet time getting ready that morning . . . well, it never would have happened. Her mom wouldn’t be a basket case. Her brother Logan wouldn’t drink. And her little brother would still have two parents.

But life goes on even if you don’t want it to. And when Lacey gets the chance to make a difference in the lives of some people at school, she jumps at it. Making lemonade out of lemons is her specialty. Except she didn’t count on meeting a guy like Sam. Or that sometimes? Lemonade can be a pretty bitter drink to swallow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins - 2/5/2010

1. I know today is going to be a good day.

2. December always feels like the longest month.

3. You can't help but thanks for asking.

4. Come on; bring it on!

5. Where have you looked lately?

6. Your badge is now available.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a rodeo party with my friends, tomorrow my plans include bowling and cleaning out a bedroom and Sunday, I want to finish the bedroom!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday - The Sky is Everywhere

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Sky is Everywhere
by Jandy Nelson
Publication Date: March 9th 2010 by Dial

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

Wow!  I feel like I lived part of this story.  It really hits close to home.  When I was in high school, I was in the band, and during my Senior year, my boyfriend was killed.  Talk about grief!  I don't know how I got through it except for having my friends around me.  I am anxious to get my hands on this one and see what unfolds with these characters.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Because of A Book with Elisa Lorello

I am pleased to bring you another WOW! author this week.  Please help me welcome Elisa Lorello to the blog!

Author Elisa Lorello grew up on Long Island, NY as the baby to six older siblings. Growing up during the 80s, Elisa covered her walls with Duran Duran posters and used lots of hairspray. She explored many passions, including drawing, tennis, and music but in her early 20s, exercised her gossiping skills while working as a manicurist.

In 1995, Elisa left Long Island to attend the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth for both her bachelor and master's degrees. In 2000, as part of her graduate education in Professional Writing, she became a teaching associate, and met two professors of rhetoric and composition who took her under their wings. This union of teaching, rhetoric, and writing ultimately became Elisa's calling, and remains so to this day. She now lives in North Carolina where she teaches academic writing at North Carolina State. Elisa is currently co-writing a third novel with friend and former student, S. R. Paquette. That is, when she can tear herself away from her favorite entertainment—Facebook.

Because of a book: Creature of Habit

Shelly, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog!

I’ve always been a creature of habit, especially when it comes to books. In the same way I keep coming back to the same coffeeshop or beach, or wearing that comfy sweatshirt until the sleeves are frayed, when I stumble upon a book (or author) I like, I read it repeatedly until its spine is wobbly and its pages jagged. When I consciously think about what keeps me coming back to these authors and their books, three factors come to mind: language, story, and character.

Here are three (of many) authors/books that influenced me in each of these aspects.

Language: Dr. Seuss. Recently I read Green Eggs and Ham to my class of college freshmen. I teach academic writing, but the subject of the day was our attitudes about reading and writing. Namely, how many students have developed an aversion toward reading. You should have seen their faces—the delight they expressed—as they silently recited the words along with me. And I confess that I delighted in reading it to them. The words rolled around my tongue like candy, their simplicity reminding me (and them) that words don’t have to be big to be meaningful, and once upon a time, books evoked feelings of pleasure. Words are like spices; put the right combination together and they make your story delicious. Dr. Seuss was the master of this.

Story: Judy Blume I can still remember my second grade teacher reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to the class; from then on I was hooked. I went to the library and checked out one Blume book after another: Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret; Starring Sally J. Freeman as Herself; Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, It’s Not the End of the World, and of course, everyone’s favorite, the one that came with a wait list, Superfudge. I read these books religiously, finishing one and beginning another and starting all over again when I’d gone through them all. I paid homage to Judy Blume in my novel Faking It, when Devin asks Andi how she learned about sex. “Judy Blume books,” she replies. For me they served a far greater purpose in that they taught me how to tell a story in first person (in other words, how to be a good narrator), and how to make a character relatable as she’s telling that story. This has come in handy both in fiction and nonfiction. And, of course, the stories themselves were wonderful, some containing stories within stories.

Character: Richard Russo. Hank Devereaux from Straight Man (an academic comedy) contains everything I seek in meaningful, memorable characters: wit, depth, conflict, sense, and flaws. Russo also balances arrogance with insecurity, all the while keeping us rooting for Hank. Russo creates ensembles of characters that are real, flawed, sometimes quirky, and oftentimes witnesses to human experience. I go to Russo when I want to understand the small town life or the middle-aged male, or when I want to be inspired by a good piece of dialogue. Russo’s characters talk to each other and themselves. I find myself listening as much as reading when I’m in a Russo novel. And although my characters could not be more different from his, Russo’s characters have taught me about likeability, even if the character is thinking/doing unlikable things.

I enjoy writing because I enjoy reading. Because of these and so many other books (and their authors), I’m a writer of habit—language, story, and character.

Do you have a book and/or author that you visit time after time? What keeps you coming back?

About Green Eggs and Ham: Dr. Seuss turns 50 simple words into magic in this time-honored classic.

Sam-I-am won't give up! He keeps trying to get the grumpy grown-up in the story to taste green eggs and ham.

No matter how Sam-I-am presents the green eggs and ham (in a box, with a fox, in the rain, on a train), the curmudgeon refuses to try them.

Finally, Sam-I-am's pesky persistence pays off. A crowd of open-mouthed onlookers watch in suspense as the old grouch takes a bite. And?

...SAY! The old sourpuss's face is wreathed in smiles as he gratefully acknowledges, "I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-am!"

Buy it at Amazon
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About Superfudge:  Twelve-year-old Peter can hardly survive life in the Hatcher household. Fudge is still his biggest problem, but now he has a whole new disaster to consider. Will the new Hatcher baby become a carbon copy of the zany Fudge?

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About Straight Man:  In this uproarious new novel, Richard Russo performs his characteristic high-wire walk between hilarity and heartbreak. Russo's protagonist is William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rust belt. Devereaux's reluctance is partly rooted in his character — he is a born anarchist — and partly in the fact that his department is more savagely divided than the Balkans.

In the course of a single week, Devereaux will have his nose mangled by an angry colleague, imagine his wife is having an affair with his dean, wonder if a curvaceous adjunct is trying to seduce him with peach pits, and threaten to execute a goose on local television. All this while coming to terms with his philandering father, the dereliction of his youthful promise, and the ominous failure of certain vital body functions.

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About Faking It:  What happens when a writing professor and a male escort become friends? Thirty-four-year old professor Andi Cutrone has broken up with her fiancé in Massachusetts, moved back to her native New York, and wants to be a better lover. So after meeting Devin, a handsome, charming escort, she proposes an unusual arrangement: lessons about writing in exchange for lessons about sex. When Devin accepts Andi's proposal, he draws up a contract in which the two are forbidden to see each other socially. There's just one problem: Andi also wants Devin.

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About Ordinary World:  Ordinary World is the continuing story of Andi Vanzant--what happened after the last page of Faking It. Andi had everything she wanted: a husband, a home, a job she loved, a cat named Donny Most. Then a drunk college student plowed into her husband’s car and she lost everything…everything except the cat. Andi’s faced with a nightmare world and the work of trying to transform it into an Ordinary World. She’s certain that life will never be ordinary again but begins to find her way with the help of an unlikely support group that spans the world. She finds a hand to hold in Long Island, Massachusetts, Italy and even Peru. In the midst of her mourning Andi finds herself with a new love affair…or is it more than that? Ordinary World is the story of a woman accepting losses and embracing gifts. To some degree it is the story every woman fears and every woman must some day live.

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