The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, December 11, 2017

"The Write Man" by Lisa Ricard Claro--Definitely Not Your Mama's Romance Novel

         Hi. I'm Sioux, and I'm not a reader of romance novels.

      I've always taken more than 12 steps away whenever I'm in the vicinity of the romance section. The covers with the heaving bosoms. The men with the flowing locks. The writing (I'm sure) is predictable and stale. 

      It's wrong, but I admit that for me, Harlequin and romance novels can be used interchangeably.

      In all my life, I've been sucked in by read only three romance novels--all three by Lisa Ricard Claro. Love Built to Last. Love to Believe. Love to Win. I enjoyed all three, but surely they were the exception, right? The plot kept me going as I was taken on a twisty-turny ride, but other than those three, I was finished with romance books.

       Or so I thought.

      Then Lisa came up with a new book. A novella. And it had one of those romance-y covers, albeit a modern one. Initially I passed, as I was in the middle of a YA novel. 

      But something in me didn't want to miss out, so I asked for an advanced reader's copy and devoured the book. Overnight.




      It's not your mama's romance novel because it's well crafted. The phrasing. The pace. It begins like honey on a semi-warm day. The opening scene just oozes along, drawing the reader into the beach setting. Things speed up and then slow down--just when you want them to continue full-speed ahead--to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. 

      To keep me hooked as a reader, it has all the components: a delicious, tongue-in-cheek villain/pirate in Scurvy Rickets. A damsel-not-in-distress in Merry Sunjoy. A stray dog. Wonderful wordsmithing.

      However, I was also hooked as a writer. In this book. Lisa has fun (or at least seems to have fun) creating "Foundling Faeries" who serve as Jiminey Cricket/internal dialogue for Merry. These tiny creatures echo Merry's feelings. Sometimes they're the devil's advocate. Sometimes they're her conscience. Sometimes they provide comic relief.

      What a brilliant idea. How delightful it is to see a writer creating a writer creating characters--the faieries--in such a deft way.


Lisa Ricard Claro


       The word choices the author made also wowed me as a writer. The phrase "bruised sky" was one I noted, but I soon stopped jotting them down as I got engrossed in the storyline. 

        If you want to read a romance that's the opposite of a Harlequin romance novel, check out Lisa Ricard Claro's The Write Man. It's a quick read and a quick study in what can be done when it comes to romance-y books.

       Hi. I'm Sioux and I'm not a reader of romance novels... unless they're authored by Lisa Ricard Claro...

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Great Book and Back-of-the-Book Blurb # 88

       Are you reading a great book right now? A book that you look forward to cracking open, every time you get home? A book that you'd prefer to curl up with, instead of an evening meeting?

         I am. I'm reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's a YA novel about an overweight weird girl (Eleanor) and a boy (Park) who become friends... and then boyfriend and girlfriend.

         The characters are so interesting. Eleanor lives with her siblings, mother and Richie (her mother's boyfriend) in a tiny house. The only bathroom has no door. It used to have a sheet covering the doorway, but Richie ripped it down. Taking a bath has to be taken with Richie's schedule in mind: How long will he be at the bar before coming home? The back door is right next to the bathroom "door," so if Richie comes busting in, there'll be no time to scurry into her room.

      There's not enough food and when there is plenty of food (like a holiday), Richie ruins it. Eleanor wears strange-looking outfits, since she needs to safety-pin things to cover up the tears and holes and undone seams.

      Park lives in a "normal" house with a "normal" family.

      Can Eleanor open up enough to let Park in? I have about a hundred more pages, and I have a feeling I'm going to regret when I finish the last line on the last page... because I'll begin to miss Park and Eleanor right away...

      (The book does have lots of colorful language, but none of it is gratuitous.)
   

And now onto book blurb stuff.

        Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your bookYou choose the genre. Is it a coffee table book of fashion trends? Is it a photo collection of mentally-ill patients and their clothing choices? You decide.

        Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Blurbs are those enticing bits that prod you into buying the book. Sometimes they're on the back cover of the book. Sometimes they're on the inside front cover. What they always try to do is lure you into purchasing the book. 

          Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this writing challenge. She moved to Florida, and is too busy to host a weekly book blurb. Her first romance novel, Love Built to Last, just came out as an audio book.  She's quite busy these days. She even has a new book coming out today.
     
          Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. Also, link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is. And then, check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.

           Here's the book cover, along with my blurb:



A Watery Embrace

Maura had finally succumbed.
The water was so alluring. The coolness of it. The blueish hue it took on. The accepting way it had. No matter what or who it was, the lake welcomed all who swam. Or floated. Or came in to drown…
Maura was tired of dog-paddling through life. It was exhausting working to just keep her head above water. Often, she’d feel herself dipping below the surface, and then have to struggle to come back up. Choking on what was thrown her way. Feeling like she was overwhelmed with problems that weighed her down.
So when life got to be too much, Maura went to the lake. The water beckoned her. The coolness made everything better. The blue hugged her and promised to never let go.
Maura stepped in, lifted up her feet and let herself float to the bottom… (143 words)


And for those who want to work ahead, here is the photo for next week's blurb:




Monday, December 4, 2017

It's a Dog's World

         Maybe James Brown had it all wrong. Maybe it's not a man's world. Maybe, instead, it's a dog's world...

      Our dog Radar leads quite a cushy life. Since he rarely sits still long enough to get his picture taken, I've chosen a few Google images to show you what kind of activities he fills his day with.


    As soon as we leave, Radar hops up on the bed, stretches out, and takes a nap. Or several naps.


    When there's snow on the ground, Radar loves to romp and burrow in the snow. He comes in with snow all over him, including his nose.



     When there is a dog show on, my husband and Radar enjoy watching TV. Or a horse show. Or the show Swamp People. The two of them have fun watching any of those shows together...



        Whenever there's a hose on or rain has fallen, there's puddles of water... which means mud. Some dogs hate to go outside in the rain. Not Radar. He loves getting wet and muddy... and he loves tracking that mud all over the house once his fun is done.



      Along with taking many naps, Radar eats many treats throughout the day.

      So, while my husband I toil and sweat during the week to provide for this furball, Radar enjoys a life he's become accustomed to: a life of leisure.

      What do you do to spoil your cat or dog? Please share in the comments.



Saturday, December 2, 2017

No More NaNoWriMo and Back-of-the-Book Blurb # 87

           Since November is over, so is NaNoWriMo. With just a few exceptions, all of my students reached their word count goal. (They were 6,000 for the 8th graders, 5.500 for 7th, 5,000 for 6th grade, 3,000 for 5th and 2,000 for 4th. Those last two were too low, I found out.)

       Mine, you ask? I've racked up 23,030 words. Right now I'm just seeing the trees. There's no way I can see the forest. I even wonder if there is a forest...

            (In other words, I'm not sure if it's any good. Is there too much stuff about the other kids and the real story is getting muddied? Or, is the stuff with the other kids disjointed? Also, is the tone too preachy or lecture-y, like I'm bent on bringing this bit of history to light and discarding the craft, the story, along the way?

I'm not sure. Time will tell. At the end there has to be an incident of bullying, and an organic idea has not come to me yet.) 

And now onto book blurb business...

      Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your bookYou choose the genre. Is it a coffee table book of fashion trends? Is it a photo collection of mentally-ill patients and their clothing choices? You decide.

        Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Blurbs are those enticing bits that prod you into buying the book. Sometimes they're on the back cover of the book. Sometimes they're on the inside front cover. What they always try to do is lure you into purchasing the book. 

          Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this writing challenge. She moved to Florida, and is too busy to host a weekly book blurb. Her first romance novel, Love Built to Last, just came out as an audio book.  She's quite busy these days. Not only is she a prolific writer, she also runs an editing business. (I hope someday I will have need to hire her.)
          
          Okay, back to book blurb stuff.
     
          Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. Also, link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is. And then, check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.

           Here's the book cover, along with my blurb:



A Dog’s Dream

            Hansie used to get dressed up like a horse, and his little girl would put a Barbie on his back. Off he’d trot in circles, like a show pony.
            That was when he was a young pup. He’d dream of having long legs and a flowing mane.
            When he was a little older, Hansie would ride around in a stroller. He’d wear a bonnet and a blanket would surround him like a cocoon. Life was sweet for a well-loved dog.
             But lately, his dreams had gotten bigger. No longer content to canter around or be bumped down the sidewalks, Hansie fantasized about being surrounded by children. He’d rise to the responsibility and get them all there safely.
              Hansie dreamed of being a school bus. He wanted to be draped in yellow, to be filled with screaming, gum-chewing brats, to puff down the streets belching black smoke.
              A bus he’d be… (150 words)


And for those who'd like to play along next week and also like to work ahead, here is the photo for the next blurb:






Monday, November 27, 2017

Very Late Back-of-the-Book Blurb # 86

     I'm extremely late this time. Black Friday. (I was at Half Price Books all day, from 9-9, for Love a Golden Rescue.) Thanksgiving. (We just celebrated on Sunday. I cooked. For 12. In my very tiny house.)

    My NaNoWriMo word count is 20,148. Hopefully I can rack up some words in the next four days.

    If you'd like to find out what I've been writing about on The Muffin, read my latest post there. 

    And now onto book blurb business...

      Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your bookYou choose the genre. Is it a coffee table book of fashion trends? Is it a photo collection of mentally-ill patients and their clothing choices? You decide.

        Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Blurbs are those enticing bits that prod you into buying the book. Sometimes they're on the back cover of the book. Sometimes they're on the inside front cover. What they always try to do is lure you into purchasing the book. 

          Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this writing challenge. She moved to Florida, and is too busy to host a weekly book blurb. Her first romance novel, Love Built to Last, just came out as an audio book.  She's quite busy these days. Not only is she a prolific writer, she also runs an editing business. (I hope someday I will have need to hire her.)
          
          Okay, back to book blurb stuff.
     
          Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. Also, link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is. And then, check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.

           Here's the book cover, along with my blurb:



Zelda’s Zoo

          Zelda bought a quirky zoo five years ago. An animal lover, she found new homes for all the creatures in animal sanctuaries. But what to do with her investment, once all the zoo residents were gone?
          Zelda didn’t have to look too far. In her home, she found the answer--a way to fill the zoo and keep the funny signs at the same time.
          Her mother-in-law has a huge hairy, scary wart that’s big enough to require its own zipcode.
          Zelda’s eldest son is 32 and still lives at home. In Zelda’s basement. When he’s not playing his video game, he’s napping after a potato chip and beer binge.
         And Zelda’s husband Maurice’s hand is often in his pants, engaged in a scratching frenzy and his flatulence? Well, zoo visitors are given gas masks when going to see that attraction.
          Is the successful? Read to find out. (149 words)


And if you'd like to be ready for the next book blurb which will be later this week, on Friday (hopefully), here is the photo:





Monday, November 20, 2017

Presentin', Progressin' and Back-of-the-Book Blurb #85

       Yes, I know. I'm way behind. I had a super busy end of week, along with a crazy weekend. I'm saying one apology for each of my readers... which means I only have to say "I'm sorry" 1.6 times.

     Thursday evening was full of prepping for a substitute (I took off on Friday), along with putting the finishing touches on a workshop handout and getting stuff ready for a writing marathon.

      The NCTE convention (National Council of Teachers of English) was in St. Louis. I was leading a writing marathon through Ferguson, Missouri--of great interest to people from out of town.






       We ended at Cathy's Kitchen, a Ferguson restaurant that is located right next to the Ferguson Police Department. Cathy Jenkins and her husband Jerome had stories to tell us over a delicious lunch.




      At the convention I did a bit of oohing and aahing. Jacqueline Woodson spoke to a huge convention room. It was so crowded and in such demand, teachers were sitting on the floor along the sides, just to hear her. By then, my former teaching partner and I had already done our presentation, so we could relax...






Okay, so maybe this is a better photo of her...

I also got to go to a workshop by Tom Romano. He's a rock star when it comes to multi genre writing.




     Today, it's back to work. However, as of 7:26 on Sunday evening, my NaNoWriMo word count was 16,179. Fortunately, I will have time to write tomorrow with my students. Since we have a short week (only two days), we're going to work on our NaNoWriMo during our literature classes as well as our composition classes...

      And now onto to a much-belated book blurb post...
        Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your bookYou choose the genre. Is it a coffee table book of fashion trends? Is it a photo collection of mentally-ill patients and their clothing choices? You decide.

        Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Blurbs are those enticing bits that prod you into buying the book. Sometimes they're on the back cover of the book. Sometimes they're on the inside front cover. What they always try to do is lure you into purchasing the book. 

          Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this writing challenge. She moved to Florida, and is too busy to host a weekly book blurb. Her first romance novel, Love Built to Last, just came out as an audio book.  She's quite busy these days. Not only is she a prolific writer, she also runs an editing business. (I hope someday I will have need to hire her.)
          
          Okay, back to book blurb stuff.
     
          Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. Also, link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is. And then, check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.

           Here's the book cover, along with my blurb:

Google Images



Henry the Thinker

“Are you ever going to come out?”
Bang! Bang! Bang! “How long are you going to be in there?”
With only one bathroom in the house, sometimes it was a race. If Eloise saw signs that Henry was getting up, with the intention of using the toilet, she’d fly out of her rocking chair and beat him to it… a slammed door signaling her victory.
Outwitting him was necessary. Henry thought the toilet was his throne. He read magazines while he crouched on the circular seat. He played video games on his tablet so long, his butt cheeks would go numb. Henry spent so much time in the bathroom, Eloise decided to honor him with a sculpture… which she had installed in their front yard, along with the sign:
This is my king on his throne.
          Will Henry be pleased? Or will he be pissed? (145 words)

Reviews

George Costanza: I think this book goes overboard. I mean, he's naked. I only recommend taking off the dress shirt and undershirt when preening in the bathroom after a toileting event, so I cannot recommend this book.

The Roto-Rooter Man: This guy looks like he lives on pizza and corn dogs... probably doesn't even know what vegetables look like. I advocate he either starts eating some roughage, or he'll have need of my services. I also advocate that everybody avoids this book.

The Bathroom in Room # 1 at the Bates Motel: If you read this book, something horrible will happen to you... something as horrible as what happened in me. Eeek eeek eeek!


And for those who'd like to work ahead (since, goodness knows, I rarely do), here is the photo for later this week:

Google Images








Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Something Rare... And Something Even Rarer

     

             Winslet (Winnie) never got to "dress up" for a holiday until she came to America. She got to around Halloween, and did a meet and greet at a dog bakery. (Whenever any of the dog cookies got knocked onto the floor, she was eager to help with the clean up.)




         Winslet (Winnie) never had a toy, even though she was three years old. When she came to America, she got two toys--an alligator-y thing and a dragon.
She was so proud of her two "babies." She would prance over to us and put one of them into our lap. Our job: squeeze the baby, make it squeak, and then she'd take it back.  Never did she even think of tearing either one of them up.




     
       Winslet (Winnie to us) never had the luxury of sleeping in a dog bed. She also didn't know what it was like to sleep in a safe place. Winnie went back and forth between Radar's bed whenever she wanted (he's an easygoing guy) and a folded-up quilt. Winnie went wherever she wanted... and that was fine with us.





      Winslet (always Winnie to us) would go out fifteen times a day to pee (if we let her) because it meant a treat for her when she came in. She'd never gotten a steady supply of treats before she came to St. Louis, never could depend on food and clean water, so when it was breakfast/lunch/dinner (she got fed three times a day) she danced. Literally, she'd dance. When we pulled the lid off the tub of dog chow, she'd stick her head into the tub and get a headstart. When we poured fresh water into the bowl, she'd stick her head under the stream of water to get some right away. You see, Winslet came from Turkey. She was a stray. Strays never know when their next meal or their next bowl of water is coming...




        Winslet (never again Winnie) had diarrhea the entire 6 weeks she was with us as a foster dog. She had a super-high white blood cell count. Going into a doggy hospital didn't help. She got released, and went to the vet this past Friday for a re-check with her blood. In the examining room, she began deteriorating before our very eyes. She couldn't use her right front leg. Then her back right leg started failing. She wouldn't blink when they poked their hands toward her eyes. She walked around like she was drunk--using the wall to help support herself and bumping into chairs.

       She went to a different doggy hospital Friday evening.* These doctors cared. They researched all weekend (during their time off), looking for the "zebra" that was killing Winnie. (They'd already eliminated all the usual suspects. They were looking for something rare... something that was hardly ever seen.)

       They think they found it. Protothecosis. It's untreatable... and on Monday evening it took Winnie.

        Before Winnie was euthanized, she had a McDonald's hamburger--another first for her. She was petted and kissed over and over... and hopefully wherever she is now, there is a food and water bowl that's always full, there are lots of stuffed "babies" ** for her to carry around in her mouth, there's people who lover her and there's no more pain.

      Winnie died from a rare disease. But a dog that can make a couple of people fall in love with her in just a few days... and then can break their heart in just weeks? That's even rarer. 


 * Heritage Veterinary Hospital in Creve Coeur, Missouri and AVS--in Bridgeton, Missouri--did a wonderful job trying to find a diagnosis. An autopsy will be done and samples will be sent to the veterinary college in Columbia. Perhaps vets will learn because of what Winnie went through.      


** Winnie was cremated with her dragon baby. If someone doesn't come into a life with a toy, at least they can leave with one...

       

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Winslet, Book Signing, Yes to NaNo and Back-of-the-Book Blurb # 84



          Winslet is in the doggy hospital... again. Chronic diarrhea continues. While we were in for a vet appointment for a recheck on her white blood cell count, she became quite unstable--right before our very eyes. Walking around like she was either drunk or she'd had a stroke (she's only 3), her left front and back leg were visibly weak/nonfunctioning. We rushed her to an emergency care facility. She'll be there at least for the weekend.

         Winslet, in case you're not one of my 1.3 readers, is a foster dog from Turkey. When we took her to the emergency place, one of the techs came in with a disposable gown and said, "I'll come back in my gear." Our rescue president and I wondered what she was talking about. Would she return decked out in SWAT boots and body armor? WITH? 

         She then came back in the same way she was before, in a disposable gown, and she had another tech with her (who was also wearing a disposable gown). She said, "I'm wearing this because we're from a foreign country." My eyes widened, full of questions. What country were the two of them from, and why did their country of origin necessitate a disposable gown? When she said, "We don't know what Winslet might have picked up in Turkey," I couldn't help it.

        I had to say, "Oh, so when you said, 'We're from a foreign country,' you meant she's from a foreign country." I hate when people use "we" and "we're" like that.) She tried to claim that was not what she said, but both of us heard it.

         If you're free and in the St Louis area, come to the U City Half Price Books store. From 11-3 there will be a few Chicken Soup writers (Linda O'Connell, Pat Wahler and myself) signing books. Bring a canned good in and enter a drawing for a $50 gift card.

        My NaNoWriMo word count is 9,347. That's probably a third of the way. I'm semi-pleased with how it's going so far. Hopefully, when I post next week, I'll have progressed a bit more.


 And now onto the business of the book blurb...

         Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your bookYou choose the genre. Is it a coffee table book of fashion trends? Is it a photo collection of mentally-ill patients and their clothing choices? You decide.

        Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Blurbs are those enticing bits that prod you into buying the book. Sometimes they're on the back cover of the book. Sometimes they're on the inside front cover. What they always try to do is lure you into purchasing the book. 

          Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this writing challenge. She moved to Florida, and is too busy to host a weekly book blurb. Her first romance novel, Love Built to Last, just came out as an audio book.  She's quite busy these days. She's busy trying to figure out how many hours a beach lover and writer can resist the beach as she toils away at her writing.
          
          Okay, back to book blurb stuff.
     
          Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. Also, link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is. And then, check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.

           Here's the book cover, along with my blurb:




Little Miss Dynamite


Little Imelda was a miniature keg of dynamite and she was a triple threat. She could sing, dance and act.
Mrs. Markohs tried to rein in her enthusiasm, but it was impossible. Whenever she saw an ad for a kids’ beauty pageant, this stage mom was frothing at the mouth to get Imelda’s application filled out.
Unfortunately, a monster was in the making. As Imelda racked up trophies and blue ribbons, she got more demanding.
“Use Evian water to make my koolaid, not that crap tap water!”
“Ugh. A brown paper sack? Put my lunch in a Birkin bag.”
“No ‘Super Cuts’ for me. Take me to get a $200 haircut.”
Even her mother can see Imelda is getting a bit unreasonable.
Will she be able to bring her daughter back to earth? Or, will Imelda continue with her monstrous and demanding lifestyle? (143 words)


And for those few who are considering playing along, here is the book cover for next week: