Tag Archives: book recommendation

Kevin Smokler Will Speak At the Tri-Valley Branch of The California Writers Club

Kevin Smokler Saturday afternoon, Kevin Smokler will speak at the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club. Smokler is an author, consultant, and speaker.

His talk is titled “Criticism: Meet Confidence!”

“The writer’s life comes with triumph and disappointment. You can always count on the disappointment. What writers do with, and learn from, that disappointment is often the difference between success and near misses. How do you turn bad news and rejection into wisdom and the will to fight another day?”

I met Smokler at the San Francisco Writers Conference several years ago.  He consults with attendees and advises them on the success  of their work in progress.



Julaina Kleist-Corwin

Editor of Written Across the Genres

Author of Hada’s Fog


March 19th, Happy Birthday to my son, Adrian.


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Elizabeth Strout’s Amy and Isabelle and Ann Winfred’s Replica

amy and isabelle book cover

Elizabeth Strout is one of my favorite authors. Olive Kitteridge and Abide with Me have memorable characters and settings that feel as if I’ve been there. Her debut novel published in 1998, Amy and Isabelle, is my favorite. The back cover describes the story: “In most ways, Isabelle and Amy are like any mother and her 16-year-old daughter, a fierce mix of love and loathing exchanged in their every glance. That they eat, sleep, and work side by side in the gossip-ridden mill town of Shirley Falls only increases the tension. And just when it appears things can’t get any worse, Amy’s sexuality begins to unfold, causing a vast and icy rift between mother and daughter that will remain unbridgeable unless Isabelle examines her own secretive and shameful past.”  http://www.amazon.com/Amy-Isabelle-novel-Elizabeth-Strout/dp/0375705198/

Alice Munro said of Amy and Isabelle, “A novel of shining integrity and humor, about the bravery and hard choices of what is called ordinary life.”

I met Strout at a reading from her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Olive Kitteridge at Pleasanton’s Towne Center Books. But, I wanted to talk about Amy and Isabelle. I admired her ability to make the mill where the mother and daughter worked so real that when I think about it, I’m there. The heat, the chatter from the female workers, the quality of light, etc. She asked  me what I like to write, and I told her about Eva in the Haight but I said I didn’t know who my audience was and I thought my novel wasn’t saleable. She told me not to worry about who would read it or like it. We need to write the story we want to write. I believed her in spite of advice from several writing books that stressed knowing one’s audience.

Another mother and daughter story that ends with a surprise twist was recently written by Ann Winfred on her site, Coming of Age Croneicles. It’s called “Replica” and can be read at http://comingofagecroneicles.com/

Ann's Replica

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Elle Luna’s Book and Creative Mornings Talk

Elle Luna book coverI am a fan of TED talks and this evening I found Creative Morning Talks featuring Elle Luna. Here is the link. It’s 30 minutes and worth every second.


Elle Luna with dog


If you’d rather read the concept of “the crossroads” the above amazon link will take you to her book.

Let me know what you think.

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Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction by Kaplan

Kaplan on RevisionA dear writer friend of mine sent me David Michael Kaplan’s book called Revision; A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction. On page 5, he compares writers to musicians. A cellist or bel canto singer might have talent and craft, but without endless hours of practice. . . he’ll never get to Carnegie Hall.” Writers need to practice, “which is the revision of his story or essay or novel until it is, in Goldilocks’ words, “just right.”

If we writers are “content with the first draft, the world will know it; if content with one better than the first but still not the best it could be, our fellow writers will know it; if content with one almost perfect excerpt for a few little glitches, perhaps, with luck, only we will know it.”

Kaplan reminds us that Tolstoy wrote War and Peace eight times. Raymond Carver had done twenty or thirty drafts of a story and never fewer than ten or twelve.



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Weather in Fiction Can Create Sensory Disadvantage

James Boyle's Ni'il book cover One of my Facebook friends,Cynthia Helen Beecher read my post, “Using Fog in Writing” and told me about Oregon author, James Boyle, who had a reading in Healdsburg recently.  Fog is one of the characters in his trilogy.

I became a FB friend with him and in our chat, he said “Fog is a nice device for creating a vulnerable, isolated mood.” The titles of his books are “NI’IL: The Awakening,” “NI’IL: The War Within,” And “NI’IL: Waking Turtle.” available on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Niil-Awakening-James-Boyle/dp/1440108676

Boyle says, “Weather (usually bad) plays a factor in all the books. It puts the good guys at a sensory disadvantage.”


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Writers’ Prompt from Jack Heffron

Jack Heffron Idea bookJack Heffron head shotThe Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron includes more than 800 prompts. I randomly opened the book to “Chapter Fourteen: Your Fifteen Minutes.” Each chapter begins with a famous writer’s quote. Chateaubriand was assigned this chapter with: “Let us not be too scornful of fame: nothing is lovelier, unless it be virtue.”

Heffron was a senior editor at Writer’s Digest Books and Story Press.

He also wrote The Best Writing on Writing and co-wrote with Rusty McClure, Coral Castle: The Story of Ed Leedskalnin and his American Stonehenge.”

There were over ten prompts in Chapter Fourteen so I closed my eyes and pointed to this one:

“Write about a news event to which you have some connection. Did an important event occur in you hometown? Were you ever involved, even as a by-stander, in an event that the general public will remember?…Freewrite everything you can remember about the event, form the details and the actions into a narrative, research the event to add relevant background, speculate on its significance to you.”

Let me know if you used the prompt and what developed.


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Aegean Dream by Dario Ciriello

Aegean DreamAegean Dream by Dario Ciriello is the book we are reading this month in our reading group. It’s a true story set on Greece’s real “Mamma Mia” island of Skopelos.

Amazon’s description is:
Comic and tragic by turns, Aegean Dream is a story of love, resilience, and the power of friendship. A compelling window on the daily life of a small Greek island and the spirit of its people, this book also provides striking insights into the broken institutions that would soon shake the entire global economy.

– What’s it really like to live on a tiny Greek island?
– Why is the Greek economy so messed up?
– What IS ‘The Secret’?
…and what do mysterious skulls, Russian prostitutes, President Bush the elder, and Pierce Brosnan have to do with it all?

I’m looking forward to reading it.

What Are You Reading?

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Thomas Oppong’s Book A SMART NEW MIND

Get smarter every day

Thomas Oppong’s book, A Smarter New Mind: What You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter, sounds  interesting. On his website http://alltopstartups.com/2015/05/12/a-smart-new-mind/ you can read  an excerpt from his book that summarizes 8  things you can do every day to get smarter. My favorite is “Reflect on your learning by blogging.” A couple others are, “Be curious about almost everything” and “Get Fascinated.”

Oppong is an expert in start up businesses, but from what I’ve read in the descriptions of his books on Amazon and his website, the information for smarter new minds is beneficial to everyone, not just business owners. This book is available on Kindle for $2.99.

Build Smarter Habits by Oppong

Another book he wrote with a similar title: is $.99 on Kindle. I liked several quotes I found in the two books.

“Knowledge builds up, like compound interest,” says Warren Buffett.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” Steve Jobs.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” -Albert Einstein


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William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

As I lay DyingAs I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s fifth novel published in 1930. Most of the 59 chapters are short and are narrated by 15 different characters in a stream of consciousness writing technique. He wrote it in six weeks and didn’t change a word of it. It’s considered one of the best novels of 20th-century literature.

Addie, the mother in a poor family, requested that when she dies, she wants to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi, a trek in a wagon pulled by mules. Her husband and five adult children try to honor her wishes but run into several difficulties. Previously I was not a fan of Faulkner’s style, but after reading Intruder in the Dust, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop reading As I Lay Dying although I had many projects to do, I had to find out what would happen next.

In the chapter from Addie’s point of view in a flashback, she says her father used to say that “the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.” Readers learn about her unhappiness with her life. She’s tired of taking care of the family. She regrets choosing Anse for her husband.

Faulkner created a memorable family. I recommend taking time to meet them.


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The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

Sophie LittlefieldOn Monday afternoon, our reading group will discuss Sophie Littlefield’s book, The Missing Place. It was my turn to choose a book. I had met Sophie during our Women’s National Book Association event in San Francisco a few months ago, and we met again at Town Center Books in Pleasanton for her book signing.

The book is available on Amazon, Kindle, and audio. Here is how it is described on Amazon:

Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.

The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more.

Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both…

Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.

The Missing Place

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