Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Clubs and Lessons Learned

A few years ago someone invited me to join a book club. I really didn't think I needed a book club and at the time my schedules were pretty full so did I want to add another thing to my already full calendar? After all I've been reading for most of my life -- I'm an avid reader. But since the gals were urging me to join them, I did. I can't even begin to tell you the way book clubs have added to my life. The biggest surprise was that I had narrowed my book world down to a comfort zone. I read my favorite authors, not a bad thing to do, but I didn't realize it limited my exposure to some wonderful new authors. When I moved from the east coast to the center of Florida and I found they didn't have a local book club, I started one!

I am continually surprised by the choices made and the enjoyment I get out of these 'new' authors, some of whom I regret I overlooked in the past. Our book club here is two different entities, the winter one, or as Floridians say, the 'seasonal one' which has about fifteen to twenty ladies every meeting. We meet once a month in a members house so that means we also get coffee and cookies or other lovely stuff. In the summer when our snowbirds have flown to points north, we, at first, disbanded. Then those of us who were left decided that just because we were small in number didn't mean we couldn't continue on. Our program changed. At winter meetings we chose a book, everyone reads it and at the meeting we discuss it. For our summer meetings we meet and discuss whatever books we've been reading. It gives us an even wider scope to investigate and I find myself making a summer reading list after every meeting. It always amazes me that each reader has something different to say even when we all agree it was a great book (or otherwise). They have honored me by reviewing one of my books and that was especially fun because I urged them not to sugar-coat their review. And, they didn't, another learning experience I thoroughly enjoyed.

But getting back to reading things you never would have chosen. Last week a friend suggested a book, in fact she even loaned me her copy. At first look I thought "I'll never read this," but politely took it and that night opened it up for the first time. Yesterday was our monthly book club and I wrote a review on this new book, a totally new-for-me adventure. This novel is Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. Here's what I wrote.

"If anyone had told me I would be reading a book about a 400 year old angel who lived with his family, mother included, in an exclusive, opulent New York penthouse and is losing his wings because of mold, has blood the color of sapphires, I'd have said, 'Yeah, right!' First of all, the angels in this book are certainly no angels; they are cruel, vicious, manipulating and down-right evil. But this book is fascinating in several senses. First it is beautifully written; second, it contains exceptional and brilliant imagination, religion and history. The research is unbelievably deep and well done. The story begins in a convent in upstate New York and the mystery that entwines the characters runs throughout the book and includes a young nun, her past family, an art dealer, a convent full of interesting and unusual nuns and religious history (beautifully done), angels, ancient history, modern history (WWII) and current history. I also involves art and culture. The book is written in definite segments. Spheres One, Two and Three and The Heavenly Choir. I absolutely loved the first part, thought the second part, while accurate was a bit tedious as far as background and scientific and religious input goes. Of course, this is a novel but the amazing part is that the author has woven a 'story' around and through a lot of history and scripture. I haven't finished the third part or the ending yet but I'm going to although I'm surprising myself. You just never know what lies between those covers unless you explore.

I'm a writer, books are my life and I've loved them all my life. So who needs book clubs? Everyone.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

When you have something to say…say it.

I have been in the doldrums lately. My mother once used that phrase…I remember she was asked when she thought her ship would come in she said, "I don't know, it's probably caught up in the doldrums somewhere." I wasn't sure what the doldrums were so I looked it up. In addition to being 'low spirits' it also means 'equatorial ocean regions having little or no wind.' In other words her ship was caught in limbo. Well, that was me. I like to keep my blog going but lately there just wasn't anything to say. I was in those darned doldrums. But times are a'changing.

As I mentioned before, I had finished my latest manuscript and submitted it to my publisher and I was also debating whether to go back to one I'd started writing several times over the past few years. Well, I came to the conclusion, after several rewrites and injections of what I thought might be kickers, that this story just isn't going anywhere and I was pushing a loaded cart uphill. So, another set back, or so I thought. But, that wasn't what it was…because after some serious meditation and a few talks to myself, I realized I had another, completely new plot brewing! I haven't put fingers to the keyboard yet but the words are accumulating and will probably burst forth at any moment. So, now I have something to talk about. Not about the characters and plot, it's too early for that, but the burning embers I'm blowing on to create the necessary fire to go forth is there. It certainly is a spirit lifter.

And then…as if that wasn't enough I receved an exciting email from Florida Writers Association. Having been a member of FWA and planning on attending the conference in October, any communication is always welcome and this one hit the spot! I had submitted two short stories to the latest-to-be-published anthology the FWA publishes each year. This project began two years ago. The first collection was "Our Family to Yours" and submissions had to be about family matters, true or fictional. I submitted a couple of stories and one was picked for inclusion in the publication. Wow! Great! The next year the anthology was based on and called "A Slice of Life" and every story couldn't have a beginning or an end; it was just to be about a moment in time. A challenge for sure. Again I submitted some work and one was chosen for inclusion in book, too. Another Wow and Great! This year the anthology was more of a challenge, not that the other two weren't but the one for 2011 was entitled "Let's Talk" and all the entries had to be conversation only. That meant not one 'she said' or 'he remarked' not a single description…just dialogue. Another challenge but I love writing-challenges so I sent off two submissions. Last week I received an email saying one wasn't accepted. Was I disappointed? Sure but I thought to myself, "you can't win them all". But yesterday I received another email stating that they had chosen the other Let's Talk submission. Another Wow! Great! If truth be known I thought the first one might make it and was not at all sure the other would. Who knows? It's a matter of who reads them and what buttons they push. I'm pleased beyond words, if that's possible for a writer. Anyhow, the doldrums seem to have picked up a few new breaths of wind.

Guess I'll be saying something before you know it.