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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Interview with Gordon C. Krantz

Krantz's historical fiction "autobiography"
of Samuel, the biblical seer. 

Today we welcome experienced and prolific author Gordon C. Krantz. 

JK: How long have you been writing? What have you done besides writing?

GCK: I grew up on a 40-acre farm in central Minnesota during the Depression.  It was a solidly Swedish immigrant community where no one over fifty spoke English. We didn’t know we were poor because everyone else was, too. Then we (a family of seven) moved to 160 acres in west central Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi from Red Wing, Minnesota, where I had been born and where I went to high school.

I entered college, the first in our family to do that, and after a semester I entered the Army (7/6/43 – 1/6/46) to serve in Europe. That was the subject of my most popular book, Ordinary GI. Then, after the rest of college (MA), I became a  vocational rehabilitation counselor and later district supervisor.  I was the first psychologist to work in the first sheltered workshop for the mentally retarded in US. I was imported into secondary special education (with two others) in Minneapolis to bring rehab technology into public education. More of that, merging with vocational education, and some private psych consulting, also participation in the systematization of special ed and vocational ed. I made significant contributions to development of the technologies of vocational evaluation and work adjustment. I went back to UM for my PhD in education administration. I then worked for the state in community service development, retired, and activated to structure a software program to enable elderly to live at home longer (not a successful business).  Retired, I now write and volunteer. My book, “What Did You do for a Living, Daddy?” is mostly of interest to family.  My professional papers are on file at the Minnesota History Center.

JK: And finally, you've been writing books. How did you get started with fiction?

GCK: Most of my previous writing was professional/technical. The first novel was Judges, Rulers and One Angry Levite, the fictional memoirs of the characters in the Book of Judges. Then Samuel, Seer.  Both extensively footnoted to set the historical/cultural context. Next a simple history book about Palestine 1250-1000 BC, The Times of the Judges. My latest, What Happened Between the Testaments, a history of Judea and its surroundings 430 BC – 1 AD, is history interspersed with fictional vignettes to give the feel of how people were affected. It has the best of my texts and the worst of my covers – I'm working on that. The audience for these four is Jewish and Christian people who may like to know how we got from the Persian Old Testament to the Greco-Roman New Testament. Most in the target audience who have read these books have read them for their entertainment value.

I have another four books: Ordinary GI, my most popular, my memoir that interests WW II buffs, the widows and grandchildren of my company comrades. Someone in Australia offered it second-hand on the Web for $35! “What Did You Do for a Living, Daddy?” already mentioned.  Greece Freewheeling and Dig that Street are more or less travelogues and readers seem to like them so well that copies stay in circulation. The first recounts my twenty days in Greece and the second is the volunteer excavation below the wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem plus the usual tours, including climbing Mt. Sinai at night.

I have not aggressively marketed any of my books, and should get to that. I'm now going for the e-book market – my printer has put up a couple of them, and I’m dipping a toe into Kindle.


JK: Which authors influence your work? What is your favorite book?

GCK: Many, including Mark Twain, of course.  One? Maybe Mary Renault’s The King Must Die. She helps me resonate with Greece of 3500 years ago.

JK: How does real life affect your fiction?

GCK: I have delved lifelong into history, anthropology, archaeology and, of course, literature. So when I write historical fiction, I’m confident that I have the facts and the feel down pretty well. I’ve also paid attention to dialect and translation, so that informs dialogue.  I let Samuel be pedantic, partly because he was (if, as I think, he wrote the first part of I Samuel) and partly because I am. The High Priest Eli fictionally remarks on Sam’s pedanticism. Other characters are more colloquial. In my historical fiction, I can’t have everyone using the same voice. When I find myself overusing a word, I try to catch it and change it.

JK: What inspired you to delve into the lives of biblical characters?

GCK: I was lying awake one night, thinking that the Judge Shamgar had only two lines of text: “After [the previous] judge ruled Shamgar, who slew 600 Philistines with an ox goad. He also judged Israel.” Not fair for such a doughty man, so I got up and wrote his memoir. Then the other judges clamored. That led to Samuel. The history was a fill-in. The Between the Testaments book bubbled for a couple of years before it forced itself upon me. There, the actual incidents called forth the vignettes – how could Alexander not write a testy note to the High Priest who refused to renounce his allegiance to Persia?

JK: It sounds as if your characters are in the driver's seat! Do you have a specific method for letting them "speak"?

GCK: How much time a day I devote to writing is highly variable. On a roll, I keep at it. I’m offline more than on – I’m retired, with sparse schedule.  My work area is cluttered, though I do clean it out occasionally (like yesterday).  I live alone and have a den with computer, files, stacks of paper, bookshelves. And I don’t really have any method to recommend, other than that, for me, I need to know the time and place and culture that I write about, and I think I do.

JK: Have you always been a writer?

GCK: I began writing early, with poetry in elementary years. Then I edited my high school newspaper, ditto college. My writing style owes more to journalism than to composition. Lots of technical and professional writing – bad habit of thirteen-page letters, a few of which were widely circulated. I think I’ve pruned my wordiness. Even so, professionally I sometimes wrote so compactly that it was hard to read.

JK: What kind of feedback do you get for your books?

GCK: All pretty positive. Mixed reviews on my use of footnotes – some think it’s distracting, others claim that it allows them to understand why people would say and do what I present. My sales are word-of-mouth, though I haven’t kept count. The audience tends to be older, probably because younger people don’t have time to read books that aren’t required. Family and friends are very supportive (hey! I used that overworked word "very"!), but you have to discount some of that. But strangers also seem to enjoy the books.

JK: Thank you very much for sharing your writing with us.

GCK: Thank you for the opportunity to set down these thoughts.  One never knows what one thinks until the words come out.

Gordon's diverse and amazing books are available on Amazon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Interview with Dave Evardson

For many years Dave and Julie Evardson have earned a following around the country for their special brand of mainly maritime folk song. Dave’s songs touch on several subjects and in particular celebrate Grimsby’s (Lincolnshire, UK) fishing heritage. But as well as creating rhyming lyrics Dave has also been busy writing novels, at last finding success with Fireship Press of Tucson, Arizona.

Fireship specializes in historical and maritime books, but is issuing Dave’s work via its Cortero Publishing imprint, helping reinforce its foothold in the market for thrillers, nineteenth-century classics and fantasy.

The Fenwold Riddle is a dystopian science fiction adventure for young adults, which Dave hopes will also appeal to readers of all ages who enjoy a good story.

Explaining his plot, Dave says, “For centuries the land of Fenwold has been surrounded by a huge, impenetrable concrete wall. No one knows who made it, or why. The people mostly eke out a subsistence living from agriculture, but lately gangs of raiders have thwarted their efforts by stealing their harvests and burning their villages. At last Fenwold’s ruling Council sends out trained marshals to help the villagers fight off the raiders.

“One of these is young Marshal Dominic Bradley. He organises farmers in the south west of Fenwold to combat a local gang led by the vicious outlaw known simply as Red. But Bradley is also charged with another task - to find a way through the Wall and lead his people to whatever lies beyond. He has no idea how to achieve this, until he hears an old woman recite a strange and compelling riddle.

“During his quest he makes astounding discoveries about his country’s past – and his people’s destiny.”

Dave has already started writing a sequel to his book, and also has two other novels "looking for a publisher."

I was able to ask Dave three compelling questions: 

JK: What inspired the plot and characters of The Fenwold Riddle?

DE: I enjoy fiction woven into social history. I also enjoy science fiction. My favourite author who managed expertly to combine the two was John Wyndham (Day Of The Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos, etc). All right, so I’m old-fashioned. And I’m not the first to site a novel behind a wall. I wanted to explore how normal people might react to the inevitable social breakdown as the population expanded. Heroes would emerge, as would villains, but real change would only come about with the cooperation of ordinary people. Add to that the mystery of why Fenwold was enclosed in the first place, and you have the basis of a story that almost tells itself. In terms of characters I chose a hero with imperfections – inexperienced, priggish and misogynistic - plenty of room for improvement there - and a heroine with a physical imperfection who nevertheless succeeds in getting under his skin.

JK: How long have you been writing novels?

DE: Since September 1990 - mid-life crisis time? That was when I had my ‘Road to Damascus’ vision, while on holiday in Northern Italy. I was fairly happy with my work as an industrial accountant, and my social life singing and writing songs. But I wanted a new literary outlet. I had completed editing and publishing (on a shoestring) my Dad’s autobiography A Fitter’s Life which sold about 650 copies locally, and I’d acquired a taste for story telling. But as I suspect many novice writers do, I plunged right in without planning, research or much preparation at all. As a result I’ve only just finished that first comedic thriller. I wonder if twenty-two years is some kind of a record? Apart from The Fenwold Riddle, I’ve now almost concluded a second humorous adventure novel and I’m well into my Fenwold sequel.

JK: I understand you wrote The Fenwold Riddle as a member of a writers' group. Can you explain the benefits of that experience?

DE: Yarborough Writers was absolutely essential. Unless you’re a real "natural," only by exposing your work to honest criticism do you really have a chance of improving. Sometimes you’ll go away feeling hurt by having your composition ripped apart, but you think about what was said, develop the integrity to sift the good advice from mere differences in taste, amend your work accordingly and learn from the experience. Augment this with a few carefully chosen courses, and you should find your writing improves considerably.


JK: I'm leaving a similar great writers' group behind in Arizona and cannot recommend such groups enough. Thank you so much for stopping by, Dave.

The Fenwold Riddle is also available both as hard copy and as an e-book wherever fine books are sold.

See Dave and Julie’s website www.DaveEvardson.com for more about their songs and writing.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Suffocate Giveaway and My Happy New Short Story

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Suffocate giveaway! The lucky winner is being contacted.







My new release is a translation of a story I have loved for a long time. Please check it out. I hope you love it as much as I do.

In this story, friendship and kindness overcome centuries of incivility. It's already received a five star review.  Currently available for 99 cents wherever Kindle books are sold! Amazon Prime members can borrow it at no cost! Thank you so much for your support. Paperback and epub versions are coming soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What I'm Leaving in Arizona

I said, "Take this child, Lord
From Tucson, Arizona,
Give her the wings to fly through harmony
And she won't bother you no more."
-- Paul Simon, "Under African Skies"


When I was growing up listening to Graceland, I never thought those Tucson lyrics would apply to me. But now they do.

Although we've been trying to move on since we got here a year and a half ago, I have established some roots in Arizona that I'll be sorry to leave behind. And, I never would have guessed it, but living in the desert has the following advantages:

1. Smooth, silky hair all year round!
2. You don't even have to close up a box of crackers or cereal, and it will remain crunchy and fresh for months. My husband and I ate some freshly popped popcorn on our housing-seeking trip to Georgia, and it seemed stale to us after eating desert popcorn for a year and a half.
3. Amazing and endearing flora and fauna you won't find anywhere else in the world.
4. The unspeakable awesomeness of the dinosaurs outside the McDonald's at the corner of Kolb, Grant, and Tanque Verde. I've eaten at McDonald's only twice in the last twenty years, and both times were to enjoy the Dinosaur Learning Center.


The disadvantages are numerous, but I won't dwell on them.

The most important thing I'm leaving here is an astonishing tendency toward Kismet that has furthered my writing and publishing in ways no other place has, as well as vastly improving my offline social life. More specifically, I'm leaving behind that rarest of all beasts, a writing group that is supportive, useful, fun, and actually keeps meeting. Founded by Reneé Bibby (center in the picture) and co-managed by me (in the polka dots), the Low Writers have been going strong since before we drew up guidelines in March 2011.

Remember these faces: we'll all be famous some day!

Each member brings a different talent to bear on their critiques, making for a highly creative variety of perspectives. Their acceptance and good humor have made writing into something much better than the lonely pounding at the keyboard. The members have been so kind as to request that I keep sending them chapters of my work in progress, The Seven Noble Knights of Lara, and at these heights, I don't see how I can turn them down. I will miss you gals! Thanks so much for everything!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Giveaway: New Release "Suffocate" by S. R. Johannes

S.R. Johannes’ Suffocate is out today! Help out a soon-to-be-fellow Georgia author by checking it out and entering to win a free ebook.

Suffocate is the first novelette in The BREATHLESS Series. It is a 15,000 word young adult thriller that combines the dystopic and science fiction genres.

Here’s a little about the novelette…

“For centuries, the world outside the Biome has been unlivable. Today, marks the first time anyone will attempt to leave the suffocating ecosphere. Eria is not worried because her scientist father has successfully tested the new Bio-Suit many times. It's a celebratory day until something goes horribly wrong. In the midst of tragedy, Eria uncovers a deep conspiracy that affects the very air she breathes. 

If those responsible find out what she knows, they won't stop hunting her until she takes her last breath.”

The second novella in the series, Choke, is scheduled for Fall 2012. The third, Exhale, is scheduled for Winter 2013.

You can purchase Suffocate for only 99 cents at
B&N 

And you can add it on Goodreads

S.R. Johannes is author of the Amazon Bestseller Untraceable and a current nominee of the Georgia Author of the Year in the Young Adult category. After earning an MBA and working in corporate america, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her goldendoodle Charley (notice he is listed first :), her British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes - someday - will change the world.  You can find her hanging out online and visit her at srjohannes.com

Also check her out on 

To win the free ebook, please comment on this blog post below before 12:00 am on May 25th and let us know what kinds of YA reads are your favorite. Winner will be determined by a random drawing and will receive one copy of Suffocate in .epub or .mobi via email.

Thanks for entering!

Friday, May 18, 2012

New Review of Dusk Before Dawn!

I am so thrilled Goodreads user "Gorfo" won my poetry volume Dusk Before Dawn in the recent giveaway, because she seems to have been the right audience. I can't tell you how often my heart has sunk when reading a review of my work and finding that I did not find the right reader. The elusive "right reader" is one who is moved by your writing. He or she may have some quibble, but the style and message are right up their alley. Here is what she says:

Dusk Before Dawn was a wonderful short collection of poetry. In this collection Jessica Knauss cleverly divides the the poems into sections based on five senses, allowing you to experience each section with a different sense. The Spanish influence in the poems and the almost seamless melding of the Spanish language into many of the works seemed to draw a connection between the reader, the author's thoughts and the struggles and triumphs of Spanish culture. Through these poems I not only felt a connection to the Moors as they were expelled by a new regime, I also felt a connection to everything that makes Spain what it is. I felt a yearning to jump on the first plane and head to Cordoba or Barcelona. However, despite my love for the Spanish language I was shocked that so much of the book was in Spanish, and if I was not a Spanish student I fear much of this delicious poetry would have been lost on me. When I began this book I was not persuaded by the first poem, or the second, but Knauss quickly ensnared me in her trap with the third poem, the fourth poem and many others after. I hope to see more of her work in the future!


Thanks so much! You make me feel like a real poet! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Writing with Manolo


As the great singer-songwriter Manolo García recovers at home with all the comfort I can I wish on him, I thought I'd send some good vibes his way by demonstrating a couple of writing tips I've gleaned from one of the songs (poems) on his latest album. I give you the inimitable Spanish with an English translation.


Lo Que Me Diste Cuando Nada Pedí

Sólo he querido de ti
lo que me diste cuando nada pedí.
Perdido en las madrugadas
que anticipaban días sin semanas,
todo lo quería de ti.
Saber que el tiempo que tengo
siempre es el mismo
no quita ni pone años;
siempre se tienen los mismos.
Sólo he querido de ti
lo que me diste cuando nada pedí.
Te recuerdo con un libro de poemas abierto
mientras esperas que cambie
el semáforo a verde su luz.
Sólo fue un momento
y ese escorado gesto
es lo que de ti retengo.
Sólo será ese amago lo que me quede
de lo que pudo ser.
Sólo he querido de ti
lo que me diste cuando nada pedí.
Perdido en las madrugadas
que anticipaban días sin semanas,
todo lo he querido de ti.
Sabes que ante nosostros
se extienden los días intactos.
Sólo sabemos eso,
que justo el tiempo de desbrozar,
tras nuestro errático paso,
de nuevo la selva cierra.
Y arrastrados por fuerzas
no visibles pero ciertas,
avanzamos a ritmo fiero de zarabanda
que nunca va a parar.
Sólo he querido de ti
lo que me diste cuando nada pedí.
Perdido en las madrugadas
que anticipaban días sin semanas,
todo lo quería de ti.
Y todo lo he querido de ti.

My English version:

I only ever wanted from you
what you gave me when I asked for nothing.
Lost in the mornings
that came ahead of days outside of weeks,
I wanted everything from you.
To know that the time I have
is always the same.
It doesn’t take away or add years,
you always have the same amount.
I only ever wanted from you
what you gave me when I asked for nothing.
I remember you with a book of poems open
while you wait for the light to turn green.
It was only a moment
and this leaning gesture
is what I retain of you.
This feint will be the only thing that remains
of what could have been.
I only ever wanted from you
what you gave me when I asked for nothing.
Lost in the mornings
that came ahead of days outside of weeks,
I wanted everything from you.
You know that the days spread out before us untouched.
We only know that
as soon as we make a clearing
after our erratic trail,
the jungle closes up again.
And dragged along by invisible
but true forces
we continue on with the wild rhythm of a sarabande
that’s never going to stop.
I only ever wanted from you
what you gave me when I asked for nothing.
Lost in the mornings
that came ahead of days outside of weeks,
I wanted everything from you
and I wanted everything from you. 

This song is packed with beautiful imagery I've taken to heart. Specifically, I've taken the concept of the days spreading out before us untouched to help my writing. Each morning when I can, I approach the computer and think, "This day is untouched, undefined, pure. I will define it with a beautiful session of writing."

Secondly, the song shows that simple images can have the most lasting impact. Just as it impresses the poet, the image of the (presumable) woman sitting in traffic with a book of poems open over the steering wheel or her lap encapsulates everything about that relationship for the listener as well. I hope to find one or two such emblematic images for my novel for the reader to carry away.

Well done and thank you, Manolo. Get well soon. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Interview with Andrea Kayne Kaufman

Andrea Kayne Kaufman is here today as the proud author of Oxford Messed Up, a book so unusual that my review may have seemed more mixed than I intended. I love unusual books, especially ones like this, that have positive messages, and intend to promote them as much as I can whenever I find them!

JK: Welcome, Andrea. I understand you're from Chicago, like Gloria, your main character.

AKK: I’m from Beverly Hills but have made Chicago my home, through and through.

JK: Among other things, Oxford Messed Up is academic in atmosphere. Does that have anything to do with your non-fiction career?

AKK: I have a Masters in Education and a law degree and currently serve as Chair of the Department of Leadership, Language and Curriculum at DePaul University. I try to create a balance between my life as a professor, my life as an author, and being a mom and wife. It’s a full, wonderful, and busy life.

JK: Tell us a little more about the book and who you envision reading it.

AKK: Oxford Messed Up is a unique literary love story that transports readers on a meaningful and emotional journey where the academic world of Oxford, the music of Van Morrison, and an old claw-foot bathtub serve as a backdrop for learning, self-discovery, and transcendent love. Rhodes Scholar Gloria Zimmerman is an academic superstar who has come to Oxford University to study feminist poetry. Yet the rigors of the academy pale in comparison to her untreated Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Her next-door neighbor (who is also, to her mortification, her loomate) is Henry Young, the appealing but underachieving musician son of an overbearing and disapproving Oxford don. Gloria and Henry's relationship evolves from a shared obsession with Van Morrison's music into a desire on the part of each to fill in the gaps in the life of the other. Yet the constraints of a debilitating illness and the looming revelation of a catastrophic secret conspire to throw their worlds into upheaval and threaten the possibilities of their unlikely yet redemptive love.

The intended audience is anyone who’s ever thought about whether they deserve happiness and love, anyone who’s struggled with a self-saboteur, anyone who loves poetry or music. Come to think of it, I think, anyone who’s ever breathed!

JK:  How does real life affect your fiction?

AKK: My love of Van Morrison and poetry are infused throughout this book, which starts out in my hometown of Chicago. My experience watching and helping a family member cope with OCD fueled this novel. The notion of a love triangle between two loved ones and their internal self saboteurs are all too real. My main characters, Henry and Gloria, each have pieces of me in them.

I value language tremendously and thought through every word choice in this book to an exhausting degree, particularly the language surrounding Gloria’s OCD. I wanted and needed that to be authentic and accurate.

JK: What is your favorite book?

AKK: My favorite book is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s also my favorite feminist treatise of all time. I think Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection of Darcy’s first proposal is one of the most important scenes in all of literature. With no dowry and no prospects, Elizabeth is self-actualized and has the courage to say “no” to one of the most eligible bachelors in England. For years, I have strived for her internal locus of control, rereading Pride and Prejudice every year on my birthday.

JK: What else influences your work?

AKK: What doesn’t influence my work might be a better question! My teaching and research do, as does my personal life. Clearly music and poetry inspire me. My family, my city, my love of travel, and my desire for personal growth. Everything is a potential muse.

JK:  Do you have a favorite word?

AKK: For this novel, redemption was my touchstone word. It’s what both characters want and need and something I’ve spent a lifetime working to allow myself.

JK:  How much time a day do you devote to fiction writing? What is your work area like?

AKK: I have writing days. I also have teaching days. So on a writing day, I try to devote the day’s work to writing. My day starts with a long walk along Lake Michigan to clear (or fill?) my head. The familiarity lets me enjoy my surroundings while also letting my mind off its leash. Some days I even have to sit down to capture a character’s voice or epiphany on my iPhone recorder.

Then I head home and write in my office. I’m not going to lie; I’m not as organized as I’d like to be or as neat as I’d like to be. I’m no Gloria! But, because I have classes and students and my own children and my fiction writing, I can’t be Henry either.

JK: Do you have any methods that might seem unusual or inspiring to other writers?

AKK: My methods involve a lot of music. Each character gets a soundtrack or song that I’ll often listen to while thinking or writing about them. I was also known to read scenes aloud from the bathtub, much to the amusement of my husband. Many of the critical scenes in this book take place in or near an old clawfoot tub. I considered those long baths I took research!

JK: They certainly were! When and why did you get started writing? What characteristics from your first efforts survive today?

AKK: I’ve always written. It’s just been a matter of what. Poetry has been a part of my personal canon for as long as I can remember. As I moved into the world of academia, research-based writing was my primary medium. And, as I said, this novel emerged from a particularly challenging time in my family’s life. I got started writing so I wouldn’t lose my mind. My family is in a much, much better place now but I’ve found that fiction writing is an incredible balance to my world as a professor.  Deep in the recesses of my basement, I have journals filled with poems and people and other fragments which I am now bringing into the world.

JK: I personally couldn't find a balance between fiction and academia, so I stand in awe. Are your family and friends supportive? What other kinds of feedback have you gotten?

AKK: Many people tell me Oxford Messed Up made them cry, in a good way. I have heard it described as a page turner.  People tell me they miss Gloria and Henry when the book is over.  One reader recently told me she made excuses to go to the washroom during work because she had to know what happened. The feedback I get tends to be a sense of gratitude for writing a smart book about smart people trying to figure stuff out. Gloria and Henry resonate with people because they feel real, human, flawed, and well, just like us.

I took presenting OCD accurately and with sensitivity so seriously that I think the community of people impacted by this disease have rallied behind the book. It’s thrilled me. But this book is not meant for just the people who have experienced OCD. It’s about the fight we all must undertake to embrace and choose happiness. As I was writing, I was thinking about what I needed to do to embrace and choose happiness and it’s something I try to keep in mind daily since finishing the book.

I hope that anyone that likes a good love story, smart, believable characters, and of course Van Morrison, find something to love about Oxford Messed Up.

JK: Do you have any advice for writers based on your successful experience as a novelist?

AKK: My advice to new writers: Start. Speak into a voice recorder. Pick up a pen. Put some paper in the typewriter. Open a new document in Word. Whatever your medium the characters cannot tell you their stories unless you are willing to take steps to record them. They’ll tell you where to go.

JK: Thank you so much for being here today, Andrea.

See more about Oxford Messed Up, with availability and links, here. See more about Andrea and her writing here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Get well soon, Manolo!

I mentioned Manolo Garcia yesterday in my review. On Monday he had an emergency operation for apendicitis! The news outlets only talk about concerts being postponed, but I'd love to know how he's doing and where it happened.

But even without all that, I and all your fans on this side of the pond wish you a swift and pain-free recovery, Manolo!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Oxford Messed Up

Oxford Messed Up is the story of a couple of confused kids in a crazy, mixed-up world. Gloria suffers from severe germophobic OCD, and Henry is a recovering drug addict with some serious attendant complications. The two couldn't be more different, and and yet when they meet in the loo they share on the Oxford campus, the sparks are palpable. Perhaps their similarly stifling family environments bring them together. Luckily, Henry honestly cares for Gloria and is patient with her problem, and it happens to be therapeutically good for her to fall in love with someone with such terrible hygiene. The book recently won the Best Adult Fiction E-Book Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. It treats subjects not often seen in love stories and the innovation is to be applauded. It's a book about intelligent people making  the tough choices that will ultimately improve their lives, written by a clearly sensitive writer.

Make no mistake, this book is a commentary on the Scriptures, the holy texts being the lyrics of Van Morrison. Because I am not familiar with Van Morrison's oeuvre, it was hard for me to sympathize with characters who are so obsessed with him. Only after I finished did I think to replace "Van Morrison" in the text (it shows up on almost every page) with my own favorite singer-songwriter, Manolo Garcia. What a thrilling book that would have been!

Overall, this book will strongly appeal to people who are recovering from a disease or addiction. Gloria's progress through cognitive behavior therapy is spectacular, nearly unbelievable, but inspiring. I wanted a bit more about what it felt like to be OCD. We could hear the thoughts, but I wondered about the physical sensations Gloria felt. When someone spills a Coke on her, she goes nuts, but what does the sticky sweet substance really feel like to her sensibilities? When the dog licks her, does she feel dirty for hours afterward? Would she rather run off to take a shower in chemical sanitizer than calmly keep walking with her new boyfriend?

I didn't think the epilogue was necessary, but, again, some readers will love it. The academic atmosphere seemed just as idealized as everything else in this wonderfully optimistic world. I love optimism, but in my experience, academia is not a place where it can flourish.

Tune in to this blog next week for an interview with the author of this intriguing book!

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's a Go! Part Two!


I wouldn't have dared to write it, for fear it would seem too hackneyed and unlikely. We were driving through the wilds of New Mexico, almost back to our Tucson home with all our worldly possessions in a 14-foot U-Haul truck, when my husband's boss called. Yes, my husband answered the phone while he was driving, tsk tsk. I took out my left earbud and heard the most outlandish things:

"How many seats will it be?"

"How many people would report directly to me?"

These are the kinds of things I overhear when my husband has a phone interview. So after a good ten or twenty minutes of suspense, he said the most telltale thing of all, "Let me talk it over with my wife," and hung up.

I said, "What? What?"

He said, "Todd started out by saying, 'This may be an inopportune moment, since you must be almost back to Tucson with all your earthly possessions, but we've just won the contract for Atlanta. If you want the job, you can have it.'"

My husband hates Arizona with a passion, so it was pretty much foregone that we would take it. We've been trying to get out of here ever since we set foot here against our will. It was another full week of back and forth negotiation and confirmation, and now we're supposed to be moved in by the first week of June. We'll miss "monsoon" and the worst of the desert summer heat, only to dive into the dripping wet heat I understand occurs in Atlanta. But oh, Atlanta has seasons. It's everything we've been looking for! I've lived in all the other US regions except the Southeast, so it's overdue.

But more on that some other day.  Now is the time to say, "Isn't it NUTS that we're leaving only now that we went to get our stuff in storage?" I admit I had an inkling that it would happen in a way similar to this, but I would not have predicted that we would still be in the U-Haul when we got the call! Astounding.

Friday, May 4, 2012

How Else Do You Read?

Dictionary.com distracted me again.

This article explains two different modes of reading: lexical and phonological. The lexical way picks out only the meaningful words as opposed to grammatical function words, and can thus be done speedily. The phonological mode would seem to be the result of having been told to "sound it out" during the learning process and can take almost as long as actually reading the text out loud. The article proposes that though this is a better way to go about copyediting, few people do it.

I employ the phonological mode of reading automatically. It sometimes frustrated me that I was a slower reader than some, but then again, I knew I was getting more enjoyment and comprehension out of it. Now it turns out that this is what makes me a good copyeditor. Ah, validation!

I still take the article's point about technology making us sloppier. I know I rely more heavily on the red underlining of misspelled words more than any human being should. The key is what you do when you see the red underlining. Do you take the computer's suggestion, or consider it critically based on years of training and experience?

As I've been telling a few of my authors lately, there will always be a stray gremlin or two in published material. Now I know that it's because these two modes of reading dominate, and neither one can catch every error, every time. Is there another way to read that would be superior for copyeditors? Sign me up for that seminar!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Readers Have The Power of the Force

Readers, do you realize how much power you have? Please take a look at this all-too-true presentation explaining the publishing industry with Star Wars Figures.


I hope this has inspired you to go out and use your amazing powers!