Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bella - by Steve Piacente **Review**

click here to order
"A striking widow intent on proving the military lied about her husband's death lures a Washington journalist into the investigation. Working together, they discover the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either."

I met Steve Piacente on Twitter a while back, and we got to talking about Unicorns and Rainbows. Two things I love, very much, and turns out - he does two. He DM'd me this line, "Still, I remembered the way she asked about a couple being together a long time, as an eight-year-old might ask of Pegasus." I asked what it was from, and he said, "Bella." 

The summary above is from GoodReads - I wanted to give you a general idea as to what the book is about, prior to my review. And who better to explain it to you, than the author? 

A couple things you should know about me before the review - First, I don't normally read books that are war related (at least not fictional). And second, I have a tendency to avoid almost all things both 9/11, and the war that ensued afters. (I still care, I just don't like to discuss.) 

Now that I got that over what, what did I think of Steve Piacente's "Bella"? I really liked it, very much. I'm happy to have read it, and I'm looking forward to reading his next book, "Bootlicker". (I'll post that review in a week or two.)

"Bella" is the story of a young war widow, and her quest to find out the truth about her husbands death. It explores the other side of the military - the side that stays home with the kids, and the house, and everything else - waiting for the day their loved ones come home, hopefully, in one piece. And what happens to those people what their loved ones don't come home, at all.

Set in the not to distant past, surrounding the whirlwind of emotions and events that transpired after September 11th, "Bella" speaks volumes about what we are allowed to see, and what is kept from us, under the guise of patriotism.

Bella is available in both digital and paperback, and can be purchased online at, Barnes and Nobel, and at Steve Piacente's website.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Zen (Surfing) & Writing

I'm currently reading, Saltwater Buddha, by Jaimal Yogis. The book tells the tale of Mr. Yogis' life and his pursuit of waves (surfing) and Zen (Buddhism). Now, I am no surfer. While I love the ocean, at this point I have only stepped into the icy cold Pacific up to my knees, and, outside of moving my husband's surfboard, have never been on one. But I very much like this story, and I'm enjoying his journey from impetuous boy, watching the experiences and growth that turned him into a very well spoken man.

Part of what drew me to this book was the title - Saltwater Buddha - encapsulates two things I do love - the ocean and, well, Buddha. The other part was that my husband really loved it, and I like to think he has good taste. (He did marry me after all.) When I started down the path of yoga, it was with the intention to use the knowledge of those 8 limbs, and intertwine them with my previous obsession of Prince Siddhartha's path from royalty to chubby man sitting next to the river.

That is something I've never admitted to anyone - outside of my husband - until this second.

Now, here I am up to my eyeballs in agent bio's, query letters, synopsis, and beta reader notes. I practice yoga daily, and that's to say that I try to stay mindful of my emotions, as often as I can - and sometimes, I'm even able to take 20 minutes to do a few Sun As and Sun Bs. The same goes for Buddha and his tenets - I work at staying present, some days that easier than others. Right now I've been placing a lot of my focus on staying present, and on meditation, yoga, and keeping myself in check, because of the query trenches I am about to toss myself into. I do it so they eat me alive - like it almost did last time.

Right now, the part of Saltwater Buddha I'm reading is titled "Paddling Out" - whether you know a lot about surfing, or if you knowledge is limited to Endless Summer or, probably the better choice, Point Break - paddling out is the longest part of the process. Actual "surfing" (a.k.a. standing on a surfboard, balancing on the lip of a wave) can last somewhere between 5-30 seconds. SECONDS. Maybe longer if you're Laird Hamilton, and you're in the middle of the ocean riding 40 story waves. But the average is 5-30 seconds, hell, it may even be 1-30 seconds. As I'm sitting there reading this, in the back of my head the query questions are firing off (Is my list of agents appropriate to what I wrote? Who should I query first? Should I add so-n-so to the list, even though s/he may not be the best fit?) and the correlation between surfing, Buddhism, and writing become ever apparent to me.

I'm not overly religious, and to be honest, I don't call myself a Buddhist - because I'm not - but I find the lessons of Buddhism to be both encouraging and reassuring, but my "Anti-Religion Conformity" always wins out. But still - I fall back on realistic "zen" of life, and apply it to my life, and to my writing. Like, I know my struggles with becoming a published novelist, and what I want/expect out of those struggles are often the very things that hold me back and get in my way. As a (aspiring) novelist I am prone to flights of fancy - spinning yarns about some life I really don't have day in and out. This is normal, we all have the J.K. Rowling/Steven King uber fame dreams, but if we (I) want to live a writing life that is relatively stress free, we (I) need to accept my life as it is right now. (and not compare myself to other writers, no matter where they are on their path of writing enlightenment.)

I need to be grateful.

Do I own a mansion, have unlimited amounts of money, movie deals, books deals and a private jet? No.

Do I have a loving husband and son, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my belly and a comfy bed to sleep in? Yes.

But most of all, would I appreciate that dream if it had just been handed to me?

I've seen what that looks like in every walk of life I've occupied, and I know that I wouldn't appreciate it.  I wouldn't appreciate success  if I didn't have to run this gambit - if I didn't have to paddle out into my life.

And that is the connection between Zen (Surfing) & Writing - it is knowing that all those late nights, hours of research, hours of missing out - all those parties, occasions, funny little happenings you missed - it's all the type-os, and (im)patiently waiting for beta readers to read your book and reply, the people (some family) who blew off your book, and wrote you off for a hack - it's all of that. Because when you finally get there, and you stand up for your 5, 15, 30 seconds - and the lip of the wave dips over your head - suddenly encasing you in a tube of water, just before it spits you back out into the ocean - it's worth it.

So remember, if you're struggling to achieve your dream, you're doing something and that's great. And yes, there will be crappy moments, some so hard you cry yourself to sleep - but it's just part of the process. You're just paddling out, and that is the biggest part of the journey.

Always remember - the grass is always the greenest where you water it.
Water your dreams, and keep paddling.

p.s. - and remember, sometimes as you wait for that big dream to come rolling in... you get to see dolphins.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Let's Write a Book (and maybe get it published too)

So, you want to write a book?
You have an idea for a story, a character, or a setting - maybe you have an idea for all of these.
You were inspired by a movie, a book, a news piece - a friend, and the juices are flowing.

You think, it can't be that hard. But you're wrong. Writing a book is both arduous and time consuming.

Should you still do it? Yes, if you have a story, a character, a setting - and it's itching at your brain, keeping you up into the wee hours of the morning, and all you think is how you want to go there, hang out with that person, and enjoy yourself - yes, you should still do it.

What you need to know - as previously said, it's time consuming. You will miss things, TV shows, movies, public outings, parties, concerts, sunsets, walks on the beach - you will have to sacrifice to make the time to write. There is no short cut, there is no way around it.

First, you should plot - outline, even if that means scribbling down the story over and over and over, expanding it each time until it fleshes out into a more complete vision in your head.

Or may you want to write by the seat of your pants. Your choice.

Then, you sit down and your write. You write scenes, and chapters. New paragraphs as you skim through the thesaurus because using the same word over and over (and over) is making you doubt yourself. (You know enough words, sometimes they slip just out of reach - don't worry, you'll find them again. I swear.)

And then you write a book - it will probably take anywhere between 6 months to years, and years. And when you're done - walk away. Go out with all those people you've been ignoring. Check out netflix to get caught up on TV shows you missed. Take someone out on a date. Go to Mexico and get drunk on tequila - and eat the damn worm. (unless your vegan)

In two weeks to a month, pick up your book again, and read it - edit as you go. A-ha! Now those words are coming back to you, and you can see the parts you need to flesh out, or thin out. So you repeat the above step, and you sit your butt down and you get to editing. You put on your blinders, turn off your phone - try your hardest to ignore facebook (and twitter, and instagram, and whatever other social media, virtual party platform your addicted to) and you edit.

You don't con a family member/friend to edit it for you.
You don't hire someone to edit for you.

It's your vision.
It's your blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, lonely testament to that vision you had - oh, so long ago.  So you sit down and YOU edit your own book.

Now it gets tricky - now you find someone to read it for you. A family member/friend. Loved one, co-worker, kid who mows your law - you have them read it, objectively, and you give them a list of questions to answer:

Does this suck? Or is it the next Tale of Two Cities?

Tell them to be honest, because little white lies that are said to "not hurt your feelings" will, in fact, hurt your writing.

If they hate the scene you loved the most, change it.
(Get at least 4 or 5 people to read it, by the way. Then look at the reoccurring complaints)

Once they've all read it, and responded, guess what you get to do? You go SIT IN YOUR CHAIR and write/edit some more. Spice it up. Add foreshadowing. Kill of characters that ruin the story. Fix it.

Call your beta readers, have them read it again. Have them look for misspelled words your tired eyes have missed (13 or 14 times), and fix it. And now your book is done.

...let's publish a book...

Now take your book and give me a summary - in two pages. Good.
Now take that summary and smash it down to a paragraph. Good.
Now take that paragraph, and give me a sentence. Great.

Figure out your elevator pitch.
Figure out your target audience, genre, if it will be marketable in China V Japan.


Take this info and make a query:

Single sentence.


Small paragraph about your writing life (no need to add your cats and dogs).

Take the query.
Take the synopsis (summary).
Take the first 5 pages of your book.

Set it aside.

Go check out agents.
Look them up.
Follow them on twitter.
Stalk their blog posts - and guest blog posts on other sites.

Do they fit?
Do they like what you're offering?
Do they represent someone you love?

Stop telling yourself that J.K. Rowling got rejected 12 times before someone picked her up. 12 ain't nothing. I've had over 50. I don't actually keep track. It could be over 150.

Don't keep rejection letters, but keep the agents name, so you don't (accidentally) re query them with your book.

And now wait.

So... let's write a book. Even after ALL of that, let's do it. Why?
Because, outside of giving birth to a child, it's the most amazing thing you'll ever experience. Because it's exactly like giving birth to a child - a child of your imagination. And this one won't light your rug on fire. (hopefully)

Always remember to leave comments on books you buy.
Always reach out to authors you love, and let them know you love them.

Because it gets very lonely in here, writing a book, and it's nice to know others are reaping the benefits of all you left for later to do just that.

Now that you're done reading this.
Go write your book.