Tuesday, July 28, 2015

4 July Mini Book Reviews : Re-read Edition--L. Bujold, J. Clavell, D. Gabaldon

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PALADIN OF SOULS Lois McMaster Bujold: Fantasy with a healthy dose of Women's Fiction

Must Read for the 3-D characters who portray what heroic really means and a universe that is as multidimensional as the people in it. This is a fantasy and the sequel to The Curse of Chalion. Read Curse first.

TAI-PAN James Clavell: Historical Fiction

I periodically reread Clavell's Asian Saga for the amazing stories and vivid characters. TAI-PAN is the second in the series and is set during the founding of Hong Kong. With a tightly plotted story and an unforgettable main character--Dirk Straun--Clavell proves he is a mastery storyteller. Good read

WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD Diana Gabaldon: Historical Fiction

Diana Gabaldon has again crafted an amazing story, a masterpiece that ties up the threads from its predecessor, AN ECHO IN THE BONE, with a roller coaster of a ride. She writes every single one of her POV characters' hearts, minds, and souls with humanity. WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD is my second favorite of all the Gabaldon books. But be forewarned: There's more coming in this story. As always Diana Gabaldon's book is an absolutely Must Read!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

4 Mini Book Reviews for July (part 1)--R. Alford, S. Baker, M. Dilloway, B. White

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 I'm still on a mission to fulfill your beach read needs. ;-)

MOTHER OF MY SON Rachel Alford: Christian Women's Ficiton

Here's a lovely story of the mother of an unwanted child and a "childless" mother who connect through a young man. Forgiveness and redemption are the themes. Both are grounded in the characters' journey.

LEDBETTER STREET Susan Baker: Women's Fiction

Ledbetter Street's colorful cast of characters come from all walks of life and share genuine concern for each other as they deal with a wide range of social issues. 

SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW Margaret Dilloway: Women's Fiction

A lovingly told story of five women in both ancient Japan and modern America. Must Read!

THE PERFECT SON Barbara Claypole White: Women's Fiction

 What's the worst thing that can happen when you must have everything in control? That's exactly the question in Barbara Claypole White's latest--The Perfect Son. Her insightful and delicate touch with characters suffering from mental illness is a hallmark of her novels.  The Perfect Son solidifies my opinion of her expert story telling.

Next Week: Another Mini Book Reviews--Re-read edition!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

RIP, Sweet Cherry Tree

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Long before there was a Cherry Hill, GA, there were three Yoshino Cherry Trees in my side yard. And there was In the Shade of the Cherry Tree's original post

On June 30, John and I took down the old Cherry Tree, the last one of the original three, but in recent years, it has had fewer flowers and even fewer leaves. Add the increasingly dead limbs, and you have a sick, dying tree.

Rest easy, there is a newer tree already in place with plans for another one next spring--possibly a different variety of cherry tree to extend the blooming time. To put this in perspective, you have to realize that it's from this tree and its siblings, that all things Cherry Hill have sprung. 

Setting is one of the necessary building blocks of fiction. It helps readers ground their feet in our stories and allows them to "be" in it.  When I started Mother's Day in March 2008, I only knew that Laura Grace Chandler was meeting a child who would change her life forever. From that small beginning, I have developed the following works-in-progress:
  • Mother's Day
  • Friendly Fire
  • Consuming Fire/Justice and Mercy
  • Line of Fire
  • Camp Fire
  • Unexpected Child
  • The Founding of Cherry Hill
  • Elise Dooley's Story
And predating them all is one WIP that's not set in Cherry Hill. In fact, it's not even set on Earth. ;-)--The Dawn and the Lion.

So, in memory of the cherry trees that started all things Cherry Hill, I give you some pictures and some snips. Enjoy!

     The square was lined with cherry trees in full leaf casting cool shade over the brick sidewalks. I rather missed April’s pink clouds of cherry blossoms drifting over the carpet of rose, white, and pink azaleas at their feet. Though on a hot day in May, shade might be more refreshing. Either way, Cherry Hill always dressed for the season. (from Mother's Day)

     The two construction cranes that looked like they were mating over the Court House expansion, gave me pause. I knew it was my perspective. They weren’t actually touching. I’d checked. But it would explain the explosion of new buildings all over town. (from Mother's Day)

    I looked over the small lake. On the dam, crape myrtles in riotous bloom alternated with the cherry trees in full leaf. I took a deep breath. Another group’s grill behind our table rewarded me with a whiff of smoke. (from Mother's Day)

     The cool, green leaves of the cherry tree moved slightly when I stepped onto the porch. The low, repetitive call of a mourning dove hunting its mate sounded from the shadowy depths of the limbs. But no answer came. The moments stretched as I stood on the porch in the simmering air. The bird’s plaintive call sounded again. When there was no answer, it lifted on white-tipped wings. (from Mother's Day)

     I uncapped the pen again then looked out of the window at my garden. It was spectacular this year. Even though the heat would bake everyone’s annuals, my carefully selected perennials were bright and colorful, a welcoming space of solace and refuge, especially since Tom’s death. I wanted to provide Samantha with all the care she needed to grow strong. To provide her with shelter like the full-leaved cherry tree that shaded my study from the summer glare. (from Mother's Day)

Next week: Another Mini Book Review!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Author Interview: Barbara Claypole White

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Be sure to comment and include your email address for a chance to win a copy of The Perfect Son. I'll draw a lucky winner by random. :-) Here's your chance to get in on a great author!
[The giveaway is closed. Congratulations, Nicole!]

I first met Barbara Claypole White when the WFWA email loop formed before the association took official flight in September 2013. Be sure to check out Barbara’s website www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com  Her first book—The Unfinished Garden—was an amazing, deep look at OCD. The examination of an emotional illness made me sit up and cheer! Barbara is an author who can take complex issues and distill them into captivating stories. I’ve been a fan ever since.

The Unfinished Garden is a lovely story with two damaged characters finding the road a bit bumpy, but worth the trip. This is a good read that takes readers on a tour of living with OCD, and the problems it presents for those who love the sufferer. White's ability to share the journey of her characters allows readers to have empathy.

The In-Between Hour is an absolutely fabulous story! I'm never forget Will, Hannah, Jacob, and Galen. They're not characters; they're living, breathing people. Grief and are true to life and White’s story is deeply moving.

What's the worst thing that can happen when you must have everything in control? That's exactly the question in Barbara Claypole White's latest--The Perfect Son. Her insightful and delicate touch with characters suffering from mental illness is a hallmark of her novels.  The Perfect Son solidifies my opinion of her expert story telling.

ZM: Welcome to In the Shade of the Cherry Tree, Barbara! I love your books and the truth of families that live with OCD, dementia, grief, and Tourette’s. What’s been your inspiration for “Hopeful Family Drama with a Healthy Dose of Mental Illness”?

Barbara: Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here, WFWA sister! Everything I write comes back to being the mother of a brilliant young man who has battled obsessive-compulsive disorder for the last sixteen years. We’ve visited hell together numerous times, and even when the OCD monster retreats into the shadows, I’m waiting for it to pounce. The sad reality is that mental illness is treatable not curable, demands constant management, and can often be fatal. As a mom I need to believe tomorrow can be better. And you know what? Often it is.

ZM: The Perfect Son is trending on Amazon—I saw you listed with the likes of Stephen King and Diana Gabaldon. Tell us what the road to publication for your latest book has been.

Barbara: I still can’t believe what’s happened with THE PERFECT SON. From day one this was my wild child, and it was written to the ticking clock of deadline. I had horrible problems with research and plot, lost more titles than anyone should have to lose, and right after I turned in the completed manuscript…my publisher cancelled my contract. But Cinderella does go to the ball if she has a kick-ass agent, and within two weeks I had another offer. When my new editor mentioned putting the book forward for the Kindle First Program, I didn’t want to even hope…

ZM: How do you work to flesh out your characters? Do they come to you fully formed, or do you have to mold them? I also noticed that many of them garden. Is that a nod to your own gardening experience?

I have a sense of the characters when I start, but nothing more. I research, research, research and then I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I spend months trying to get those first few chapters to speak to me. When a character says something that makes me punch the air and go, “yes!” I know I’ve found his or her voice. Once I have my characters’ voices, I can move forward with the story.

Yes, a number of my characters garden. I’m a huge woodland gardener, and that definitely plays a role. But I think it’s more about trying to understand the creative side of my characters’ personalities. Most of them battle some form of invisible disability and how they relate to art and music is fascinating to me. Is it therapeutic for them, does it give them escape? I devote a ridiculous amount of time to thinking through each character’s relationship to music, for example, because music is such a great manipulator of emotions.

ZM: You and I both write Women’s Fiction. It’s a very broad genre with many sub-categories. I love your use of family drama to help define your niche. What’s your definition of women’s fiction and how you deal with the misunderstanding that the entire genre is Chick Lit or another sub-genre?

Barbara: I wasted so much energy in the early days trying to explain—even to family members—that I didn’t write romance, and now I just tune it all out. I’m dark and I’m quirky, and I write emotionally layered drama that focuses on what it means to be part of a family, whether that role is as a husband or wife, a daughter or a son. Because I lean toward the male POV—I really am fascinated by the emotional lives of messed-up men!—some readers claim I don’t write women’s fiction. The truth is that many novels don’t fit neat genre definitions. For example, look at the work of Jodi Picoult or Diana Gabaldon. I think writers should write their passion and not worry about labels. That’s not exactly an answer, is it? 

ZM—Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Barbara: I don’t think I have a favorite genre, because I read all over the place. Basically if someone hands me a book and says, “This is really good, you should read it,” I do. I read a lot of memoirs, often for research, but sometimes I’m in the mood for a fast-paced thriller and sometimes I want to slow the world down with beautifully written literary fiction. I reread classics when I can (REBECCA is on my list for the summer), and I like to pick up debut fiction. If I had to single out favorite authors, I would choose Jodi Picoult, Marian Keyes, and the Irish writer Denyse Devlin/Woods. I’ve pretty much read everything those three authors have written.

ZM: What’s next? What story are you working on now?

Barbara: Hmm. I can’t answer that right now but stay tuned.

ZM: I, for one, can't wait! Thank you, Barbara for stopping In the Shade with us. Bring your next story on!

English born and educated, Barbara Claypole White lives in the North Carolina forest with her family. Inspired by her poet/musician son’s courageous battles against obsessive-compulsive disorder, Barbara writes hopeful stories about troubled families with a healthy dose of mental illness. Her debut novel, The Unfinished Garden, won the 2013 Golden Quill Contest for Best First Book, and The In-Between Hour was chosen by SIBA (the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) as a Winter 2014 Okra Pick. For more information, or to connect with Barbara, please visit www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com.

 Next Week: The origins of Cherry Hill in pictures and snips!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

IWSG July: Fear of Waiting

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Insecure Writers Support Group

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

The awesome co-hosts for the the July 1 posting of the IWSG will be Charity Bradford, S.A. Larsen, AJ, Tamara Narayan, Allison Gammons, and Tanya Miranda! 

 Writers do a lot of waiting--waiting for contest results, query responses, submission results, publication dates, etc. We all need a healthy dose of patience. Some days we run out of that very trait. I know I'm waiting on a contest right now. Soon, she says hopefully, I'll be in the query results segment of this writing game.  One helpful hint is to start working on your next book, story, poem, or play. I'm about to do just that after my latest polishing run on Mother's Day.

What about you? What are you waiting for on your writing journey? How do you find the patience to wait?

Next Week: The latest Author Interview: Kindle bestseller Barbara Claypole White. Pssst! There's a book giveaway, too. ;-)