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Archive for July, 2010

It’s the end of July and I feel like I’ve failed because I haven’t blogged nearly as much as I wanted to. I set out to do five posts a week between my book reviews and blog entries, but ended up doing a fraction of that number. I wasn’t counting ona few projects that ate up the hours like hungry alligators, nor was I taking into account the fact that sometimes life just happens and there is no way to pre-plan for some of the events we, or those around us, experience.

July has been a month of both trials and triumphs. There have been successes, among them the early publication of an article online in my soon to be new home, I have a new start date only two days on August second. I’m so excited! The title of my article was “Okay, Call Me a Socialist,” drop over to the Pigeon Post and check it out. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s about some policies from the FDR era I really feel should be re-enacted. You may agree or disagree, but it IS worth reading, honest.

I have enjoyed many things about this frantic month. The pace has been busy, even if it was crazy at times. I would have chosen to bypass a few things along the way, but not everything. Some things were a challenge, but in the end were ones I enjoyed and others were just plain fun. I got to read several middle grade and young adult books in the month, something I always enjoy. This category, as well as fantasy are my not so secret loves. Used to something embarrassing, after all I’m adult and I’m not supposed to like those kind of stories of anymore, but I do. I have other “grown up” tastes too. I just think the other tastes come along because we never forget our first forays into literature, as opposed to picture books and the like. I will always love Laura Ingalls Wilder for bringing the “Little House” series to such vivid life. She inspires me to this day and every few years I go back and re-read the entire series. I follow one of her descendants, also a writer, on Twitter. She makes my “Follow Friday” list every week. I’ve read several of her books, they’re very good and some day she may be remembered as more than just a descendant of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Lucy Maud Montgomery is another favorite, for her Anne of Green Gables series. I read every novel in that series and like to revisit that series every few years also.

There is something to be said for first loves and Laura and Anne were among mine. There is a list of fantasy and science fiction writers that I also keep and will share with you another time. Sci-fi and fantasy were later tastes, developed when I was 14 or 15 and while I still enjoy many of the writers I don’t feel the passion for them which I feel for these writers of my early ‘tweens and teens.’

I hope books are a part of your life. They can’t be replaced and they allow you to experience, in their pages, many things you will never experience in real life. Most importantly they teach you to dream, a skill that will serve you well the rest of your life. Read everything Sci-fi, fantasy, dark fantasy, fiction, non-fiction, young adult, middle grades – incidentally I”ve read many young adult and middle grade books which were written better than those for adults, probably another reason I like them so much – read till you’re ready to burst with words and then read some more.

Till next time,

Tracy

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Most people think of writers as a special breed. We plug away at our keyboards, our typewriters, or for some of us, our paper and pen and words magically appear out of the blue. First, let me tell you this is my third go at this post, so there goes the idea of words magically appearing with no effort on the part of the writer of this particular piece.

Secondly, people think writers have no life outside of writing. Some of us, like me, are able to write full-time, but most writers have an outside full-time job to support themself and any family they may have until their writing starts to pay the daily bills. My writing does NOT pay the bills yet. I’m just fortunate enough to have an outside source of income which allows me to write full-time. My life without a full-time, outside job is busy enough that I frankly don’t wish to try it with any obligations beyond those I’m currently committed to.

So, last night my son calls me and asks me to babysit for him while he’s at work today. He has two children ages sixteen-months and almost seven months. Well, I had a deadline to hit yesterday that I missed, which is a first. The really bad part was it was originally supposed to be done last week, but a family emergency arose and I got a week’s extension, so I really screwed up, at least in my book. Bad writer, worse editor, feeling like a failure even before the grandkids come over.

See, writers have lives just like everyone else. We aren’t some mysterious subspecies of humanity. Our lives are as complicated, or even more complicated, than the average person’s. Stuff goes wrong for us just like it does for you: our computers die, may they at least rest in peace because most were given much abuse in life; our cars break down, leaving us stranded miles from home and our internet connection; family members end up in the hospital; we get sick, and we writers seem to have a multitude of ways to do this from which most of humanity is spared, and our stress levels are incredible. I have yet to meet a truly laid-back writer. When we’re working we’re all hyperactive, Type A personalities, it’s incredible. Take a poll, it should follow  my own observations.

But I digress, so back to main subject, A Day in the Life of … So my day, instead of starting at six a.m. like it usually does, starts the night before and never ends, because, in all my magnificent wisdom, I told my son to bring the kids over then instead of at 5:30 in the morning so they wouldn’t have to be up so early.

Well things are going fine with my sixteen-month-old grandson, he settles into bed with daughter and goes straight to sleep, but his little sister, who is seven-months-old and my responsibility is another story. I settle her down at 11:00 after her being awake from 8:00, which is her usual bedtime, but no, we’re at Grandma’s and all normal routines must be abandoned. But finally, she’s asleep and I can go back to work on my assignment. It’s already 11:00 but I figure I can push it until 2:30 or 3:00 when my granddaughter should wake up for a bottle.

So I get to work. I keep plugging away and things are going great, but then, I start to get so sleepy I can barely focus on what I’m reading, so I have to quit for the night. I go crawl into bed, it’s 2:00 in the morning and I’m hoping for a little rest before my sweet, adorable, lovable granddaughter wakes up. HA! The joke’s on me to use a cliché. No sooner does my head hit the pillow than my little darling awakens. I get her bottle figuring this will be no big deal. thirty minutes, lay her back down, get some shut-eye.

So I feed and burp her and lay her down. I immediately climb into bed myself only to hear my granddaughter start crying as soon as I’m dozing off. I get up, give her the pacifier, pat her back, get her to sleep, lay back down, start to doze off again…only to have her wake up once more, and so it continued through the night until finally, at five a.m. I gave up on sleep and brought my granddaughter to her high chair in kitchen where I fed her banana Gerber baby food for breakfast. An hour later I finally had ten minutes to make a desperately needed pot of coffee. That would have been great if I all I had to do was take care of my granddaughter, but I had to finish my editing job today, and read three books and have three reviews written by Thursday.

I’m happy to say that despite the utter chaos of the day, I finished the editing assignment, read two of the three books I needed to read and rough drafted the reviews for both of them – they’ll appear here tomorrow by the way. Tonight instead of going to bed early I’ll be up reading the third book, so I’ll have all the work I want to have finished by Thursday done. Then beginning on Friday it’s a new editing assignment and a new round of reviews. Hopefully I won’t have to watch my granddaughter, but sometimes we just have to pause and have a life. It’s better if those pauses don’t happen near deadlines, but if they do all we can do is our absolute best to make it happen. Even writers have “those days.” Today was one of mine.

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A Brief Apology

I wanted to offer a quick word of apology to my regular readers because I haven’t posted any new reviews since the first week of this month. July has been an especially busy month for me. My unofficial (because I work for myself) vacation falls during July and I’ve also concentrated more on some editing assignments this month. Don’t worry though, next month we’ll be back to normal with plenty of reviews and now, a blog entry twice a week.

Also, beginning the 22nd of August, 2010 I will be writing for Curl Publishing Incorporated’s Pigeon Post. A link to their page will appear here and you’ll be able to go there for exclusive content you won’t find anywhere else. (I know, it’s redundant, but that’s the way it’s always written and sometimes even I am a traditionalist – though thankfully not often.) I’m a total ditz when it comes to posting links though so I’ll have to have my wonderful new boss show, or tell me how to post on my page. I really have to get more “tech” savvy. In the 80s I was a total computer nerd. Took data processing, RPG and Cobol programming classes and even did some light systems analysis, where you look for slight errors that keep a program from functioning the way it should. Nowadays I’m lucky to handle my blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I guess I’ll have to find time to take some classes or find a good online tutorial for WordPress. Any suggestions out there?

See you soon, first here on my pages then shortly afterwards on Curl Publishing Inc.’s Pigeon Post.

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Keep It Simple Stupid

My mother is a recovering alcoholic, has been for around twenty-five years, which statistically is pretty damn impressive. She’s my mother so I’d think it was pretty impressive anyway; however, my mother and her history of alcoholism isn’t the purpose of this writing, it’s her saying, picked up during rehab, or from AA. The saying is “Keep It Simple Stupid” and aside from the word stupid, I’ve found I can apply it to most situations in my life.

As a book reviewer and freelance editor I’ve often been amazed at the number of writers who simply don’t get this rule. I have an amazing amount of material come across my desk that doesn’t even come close to keeping it simple. I can barely stand to read it and if I feel a reader needs to keep a dictionary and thesaurus at hand while reading your book, your likelihood of a favorable review just fell dramatically. If I’m editing for you, count on your manuscript coming back with lots of red lines saying re-do this scene, in English. If you’re only using a small amount of large vocabulary and you’re relying on context to get your meaning across to your reader, then please make sure you’re being clear; being ambiguous or facetious in this particular circumstance is not in your best interest. It will frustrate your reader. As a book reviewer and editor, these mistakes will inevitably get your book, or manuscript, either thrown across my desk in frustration, or in the worst case scenario tossed into the trash as total garbage. Keep in mind I have a rather extensive vocabulary, so if I have to grab my dictionary, you’ve probably already lost your reader and broken my cardinal rule: “Keep it Simple Stupid.”

Among my favorite authors is Mark Twain. I like him, in part, because he wrote very much like he spoke. He was articulate, without being pretentious. He had a keen sense of wit that came across clearly in his writing and because even today, you rarely need a dictionary to understand him, except a one defining terms no longer in use. He was funny and direct. He made use of dialect when and where necessary, but he also made certain you could both follow it and understand its meaning. He was a storyteller of the first caliber and when reading his work you found yourself emerged in his fantasy so that putting down his books was rather like coming up for air after being underwater for a long time. You were breathless, disoriented and had trouble focusing on the “real world” which now surrounded you. It was one of the best experiences a writer could give to an audience.

This tendency to write and speak as the average person,  the ability to draw you deeply into the world about which they are writing and to make their reality or fantasy more concrete than your own is common to all talented writers, especially those marked as great by the populace, who in the end are the people who buy, and read books. Those from the world of academics will argue that great literature, or at least great American literature is dead, but there is little basis for this conclusion in life. There are wonderful writers who write unpretentiously: James Patterson, Stephen King, Jon Grisham, J. K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain are just a few who leap to mind. I’m sure with time and a little effort I could expand the list to cover wonderful writers from today in all genres, that’s styles, of writing.

The key factor all these excellent writers have in common is their ability to keep it simple. They don’t talk down to their audience, but neither do they assume their audience has advanced degrees in English, American Literature, Creative Writing, Fine Arts or any of a multitude of other specialties. They just tell their stories, simply, plainly and with consummate skill and in the end that’s what good writing is. They keep it simple.

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Someone just brought to my attention how little information is available about me, so I decided to take this opportunity to clear up some questions.

I’m 46 years old, as of this writing. I’ve been a single parent for sixteen of those years. My ex-husband simply found greener grass elsewhere. I have six children, David who is twenty-nine; Theresa who is twenty-seven; Jessica who is twenty-five; Jonathan who will be twenty-four in December; Paul Jr. who  is twenty-two and Rebecca who is eighteen.

Jon has mild cerebral palsy and lives with me. We both actually have some health problems so the arrangement works perfectly for both of us. Make sure none of you start feeling sorry for either of us now, that’s totally unnecessary.

My youngest, Rebecca just graduated high school this year and is still living at home. She’s my baby so I’ll treasure each extra month or year I have before she moves out. Once she is gone I think I shall feel officially ‘old’.

My daughter Jessica, her husband, Kenneth and their two-year-old son, Kenneth Jr. recently moved in with me. They are going through some hard times and needed an opportunity to regroup. Hopefully they will be on their feet soon. We are all working together, but it still has it’s trying moments, for them as well as me.

I have three other grandchildren. Blake who is three; Adyn who is 16 months old and Amanda who is almost 7 months old. I was present for the birth of all my grandchildren, except Amanda. I stayed behind that time so my daughter Rebecca could go instead. If you ever have the opportunity to be present at a childbirth you should see it. There is no experience in the world that compares.

I’ve been in the publishing profession for the past thirty years. I’ve written fiction, non-fiction, poetry and, of course, book reviews. I’ve worked as a freelance editor and also as an editor for a small press out of New York City. I’ve had varying degrees of success. Like all writers I hope to make a living off my writing one day. I don’t want to be the next Hemingway – although it would be nice – I just want to write stories my readers can enjoy. If I do that I will consider it a great legacy to leave behind.

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I swore when I started this website it would be for my book reviews, and possibly, just possibly, for samples of my writing. I determined one thing I wouldn’t do on it was blog. After all, what did I have to say that people could want to hear? Then a funny thing happened, people started asking me questions, not through this website, but through others I’m part of, about writing in general, my writing in particular, and, surprisingly, about my family.

I was surprised by this attention. I had thought I existed in the shadows. I review books. I edit books other people write. when there are enough hours in the day I practice the writing craft for no one but myself. Enjoying the stories I come up with, but knowing it will be a while before these tales are ready to present to the public. For now no one enjoys my fiction but me, and on occasion, my children and grandchildren. Some day I hope to change this, but for now I’ll continue to pursue non-fiction where I have a greater chance of getting published in the near future.

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Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra’s Last Hope

Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra’s Last Hope by Elizabeth Isaacs, is a refreshing and enchanting expedition into a fascinating and well-developed land of fantasy.  Isaacs has developed interesting characters who come vividly to life on the page, as well as a funny and refreshing romance that teaches young adult’s the value of waiting until marriage for intimacy. 

I absolutely love Isaac’s characters, and her pages are populated with them. There is Edna, the wonderful woman who raised her when she was abandoned at eight-years of age by her alcoholic father. There’s her love interest, Gavin, who is an Alfar, or what we would call a light-elf. He is surrounded by his family, Rena, an artistic soul who takes Nora, our heroine under her wing and teaches her the rudiments of art. There’s Tark, who is Rena’s mate and who becomes closer to Nora during some time the three spend together in the wilderness. Then there is Elias, a taciturn, but loyal friend of Gavin and finally, Elaine, Elias’ warm-hearted and fashion-savvy mate. All of these characters play ever increasing roles in the story and become key characters for the novel’s sequel. 

In Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra’s Last Hope Isaac’s paints a picture of true love and mutual respect that should form the basis of any marriage. By bringing a different culture into the picture she helps highlight how our traditions should be, without throwing any stones. 

Isaacs’s makes excellent use of foreshadowing, both through hints dropped throughout the novel and visions occurring at strategic moments. These events truly help to move the story along building the pace and anxiety toward its natural conclusion. 

The first half of Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra’s Last Hope is very interesting and contains lots of necessary back-story and details of interest. It introduces the Dokkalfar, what we would call a dark-elf and explains their history and some of their purpose here. It shows the ongoing conflict between the two groups of man, and the spill-over to humanity. It shows that the Dokkalfar have grown stronger and can now plant their evil thoughts directly into the minds of humans. It makes you understand how critical the battle raging between the two people is. It also makes you realize how important Nora, as Gavin’s source and his one chosen love, is.

Unfortunately, Gavin’s mother has other plans for him.

The second half of the story takes place in another land, where customs and lifestyles differ and our heroine Nora finds herself striving to fit in. there are many challenges, not just for Nora but also for Gavin. Along the way it is revealed that Gavin’s “family” from his time in the human world has now become the clan of Nora and him in fact. Each member of the clan is given a key role to play in the future of the kingdom and in the very existence of the elves.

What follows is an excerpt from the book:

“Foreign woods and black silhouettes smothered out the orange; the memory so strong, adrenaline rushed through my veins. A painful spear of fear stabbed the pit of my stomach.

“When did you dream this?” he whispered. 

Early this morning Gavin, what’s going on? His blank eyes refocused; he stood and went to the window.

“When the elves of darkness find one of our kind, they track them until they find the source that feeds their power, and then they destroy the source. The evil ones cannot recognize the cause of our strength, and so they must wait until we draw from it. Love, joy,peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, patience, gentleness and selfcontrol—these are our sources of energy. We are strongest with pure love flowing through us. We can only perish if our energy is drained, until we are physically as weak as a human.” My heart jumped to my throat.

“What happened to you the morning I found you?” I had to know. I remember the pain you were in. I’ve never felt such despair. His emotions were hot and blistering, but I concentrated on listening, instinct screaming to pay attention.

“I was attacked by the Dokkalfar. We have been tracking their leader for quite a while. He came back to this area several months ago. When you said you were spending the night on campus, I stayed to make sure you were not harmed.”

 Lights washed against the windows as a car pulled into the drive.

Gavin hesitated for a moment. I walked to him, putting my hand in his.

“If it hadn’t been for you, I would have died.”

“Me?” What did I do?

“You took my pain when it was unbearable. I was practically beaten to death, and your compassion gave me the strength to survive.” I just stared at him. He laced his fingers with mine.

The doorknob turned, and I jumped, my jumbled nerves were suddenly in a knot

“My family is here.” The mammoth door creaked open. Gavin kissed my forehead making my pulse speed, and self consciously, I turned to find four pairs of jewel-toned eyes staring back at me.”

Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra’s Last Hope by Elizabeth Isaacs, copyright 2010 by Elizabeth Isaacs, published by iUniverse, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403 http://www.iuniverse.com 1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677) eBook ISBN 978-1-4502-1703-3 $9.99; soft cover ISBN 978-1-4502-1702-6 $21.95

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