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Monday, January 25, 2016

Writing For Others Is Hard

This past November, I started writing a novel as a part of National Novel Writing Month. I had my idea and plot about a year before that. And I’ve wanted to write a novel for the past four years or so. The funny thing is, I’ve never really considered myself a “writer”. But writing always came easy for me. I could crank out an "A" paper for school in a few hours. I could journal for hours. I could write sappy love letters and express my feelings, no problem. But the label “writer” never seemed to fit. I even won an award for English excellence. I write almost daily for this website, and English is part of my job. So why is it hard to declare myself a writer?
On the other hand, I have always considered myself a reader. Ever since I was a baby, I loved books. I can judge a book no problem. I can praise and critique books for days. I can admire amazing writing and shame bad writing. But actually being able to put stories on paper is challenging. 

When I started my novel, it was for myself. I had a story in my head that I wanted to be told. So I wasn’t worried about what I said or what anyone would think. Somewhere in the process, I decided that my end goal was to have a tangible copy of my book that I can hold in my hands. Maybe that means self-publishing, maybe that means trying to get published traditionally [not likely to happen]. The point is, now my story is not just for me. It is for an audience. Which means that I will be critiqued and [hopefully] praised as a writer, as an author. Now that I've been writing a novel, I think I judge books a little differently. I see the person on the other side of that book. They put their heart and soul into what they wrote and they put themselves out there to be judged. Writers are brave. 
Now that there’s the possibility of other people reading my book, I find myself looking at it in a different light. Will people judge me as a person for what I write? I am now holding on to my manuscript like a life jacket, not wanting to let go. 
But I did get brave and let one person read my story. She did give me a lot of suggestions for how to make it better and to where to add more details to my story. But she also appreciated my story. She got it. She told me, ”I think even if your readers aren't into this kind of story...they'll want to read it to see where it ends up... All the while they'll be getting mad, upset, sad, angry, frustrated, and still be thinking about it once they've finished reading it.” I always say that if a book can evoke emotion, it's doing something right. I feel better now that someone else has read it, and that I can accept criticism of it. My book is like my child. A mom wouldn't want someone to tell her that her baby was ugly, right? But I critique books all the time. It is my right as a reader. And most authors accept that. So whether people love or hate my book, I think I can accept it. 
For now, I just need to create several more drafts of my novel before I can work on the publishing process. It is still scary, and probably will be for a while. As long as I am happy with my final book, it will all be just fine. And I now feel comfortable calling myself a writer [and I'm damn proud of that]. 
o Amber Gregg o


Keep your eye out for more details about The Last Six Days, a novel by Amber Gregg.



Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Journey With Scoliosis: Part Two [and related exercise reviews]

This is a continuation of my story with scoliosis. Read part one here


The past six months, I have been on a new journey with my scoliosis. I am not naive enough to believe that I will ever have a perfectly straight spine. But I am on a journey to ease my pain, make my curve stay the same or get better, and to love my back. 

This is an x-ray of a normal spine.
In my last post, I mentioned that sitting with my heating pad is a daily ritual. Not anymore. I talked to multiple professionals and they all agreed that ice is better than heat for long-term conditions. The heat could do more damage and cause inflammation. So I sadly put my heating pad back in the drawer and bought some flexible ice pads. I hate being cold. Putting a freezing bag on your back is not as cozy and comfortable as curling up with a heating pad. But, you know what? I used the ice every day for a week. And then I didn’t really need it. So I went a week, then two weeks without it. Now I just use it when I am in a ton of pain. I think I was growing dependent on the heat. Every night I would use it to temporarily soothe the pain, but it would inflame my back and I would need it again the next day. It created a vicious cycle. 

Another thing that may contribute to my reduced need for ice is yoga. I love yoga. I usually go right before I eat my lunch. It is a great break in the middle of the day. It helps you forget the stress from the first half of the day and reduce worry for the rest of the day. It stretches out all of my muscles and I can feel my back growing stronger. I have been going to a studio two to three times a week the past few months, and I can tell the difference in my pain levels if I skip it for a week. Every practice, we are asked to sit and think about our reasons for coming to yoga that day. Then we can choose to dedicate our practice to that reason. It really helps put focus on my back and strengthening it. 

I also just got a gym membership so I can go swimming, even in the winter. I am not a strong swimmer. I don’t really like to swim. But this is about my back, not me. In my next post, I will give an update on my adventures in swimming [if I don’t drown. Luckily they have lifeguards]. 

Since exercise has been the main focus of improving my back the past few months, I wanted to share some DVDs that I have found helpful on days that I cannot make it out to the yoga studio or gym. [Like today when the roads are icy.]

X-ray of my lower back from 2015.
X-ray of my upper back from 2015.



Hard Core Scoli DVD


This DVD was led by Erin Myers, who wrote two of the books that I reviewed in my last scoliosis post. She was very enthusiastic in the video, which made it very engaging. Erin takes the viewer through forty minutes of core stretches and exercises specifically for people with scoliosis. She also gave very clear directions, so it was easy to follow. 

I liked that she started off the video with some warm ups. I could feel the stretch in my back. My biggest fear going into this DVD was that it was going to be a cardio ab workout. I know the importance of building up core strength with scoliosis, but I hate doing forty minutes of ab burning workouts. This didn’t feel like that. I sped up my heart rate and I could feel the burn at some parts, but it was the perfect amount. 

Another fear I have with workouts is if it will hurt my back. I did not feel any back pain with this video. In fact, Erin provides a guide for individualizing some of the exercises based on your curve. This makes it clear that she understands that not all backs are the same, therefore, they may need some slight adjustments to avoid pain and maximize the benefits. I did start to get a stiff neck by the end of the video (which is common for me when I work out my core). So my only suggestion would be to include some neck strengthening exercises too [scoliosis impacts the whole body, after all]. 

Even if you don’t have scoliosis, this is a great core-strengthening video. It relaxes your back, but it also is workout [and requires only a chair, a mirror, and a towel]. It is really an amazing resource for people with back pain and scoliosis. It is a challenge to find quality videos that can be personalized for spine curvature. Great job, Erin! If you are interested in buying the DVD, you can buy it here. After you have watched it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 5/5 Stars
*****


Yoga for “A Healthy Back” DVD


This video is led by Marlon Braccia. She is a yogi, so she does not have the enthusiastic demeanor of Erin Myers. She talks slowly and softly. Which makes this a very relaxing and therapeutic video, but it is not a workout. I could feel the stretch in my back and shoulders, but I did not feel a burn or get my heart rate up. Those aren’t negatives, I just want to give everyone an idea of what this video provides. It would be great for bedtime because it is very slow paced, and I felt like taking a nap afterwards. 

Marlon could have made this video better by preparing her timing a little bit better. She spends a lot of time talking in between poses, rather than while the audience is doing the poses, so the videos ended being a lot longer than necessary. There are three parts to this video: Relax Your Back, Strengthen Your Back, and Strong Back. Each of these parts is 25 minutes, so it is awkward timing. I think it is beneficial to do all three in a work out, but 75 minutes is too long, especially when the video is slow paced. 

This video is meant for just back pain, not specifically scoliosis, so there is no opportunity for customization. She gives a couple variations to make a few of the poses easier or harder, but everyone will be getting about the same workout. I think this video would be good for someone who is currently experiencing pain. They could slowly do these stretches to work out the pain [although, I feel like I tweaked my shoulder a bit during this one, so I will need to ice it to see if the pain goes away]. 

I like that this video doesn’t require any extra props (just a towel or yoga mat). And I do feel like it stretched out my back. But it was pretty boring, so if I am going to grab a video to do, this is probably the last one I would want to grab. It is also an older video, so it looks very dated (not an issue, just an observation). If you like slow, relaxing yoga to help with back pain, this video is for you! If you are interested in buying the DVD, you can buy it here. After you have watched it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 3/5 Stars

*****



Yoga for Scoliosis DVD


This video is led by Elise Browning Miller. This one does require a lot of props to receive the full benefit [yoga mat, two yoga blocks, firm blankets, exercise ball, 10 foot yoga belt, another belt or tie, and a chair]. These props help ensure that you can adjust your body based on your scoliotic curve. Elise really seems to understand the struggles of severe scoliosis and how to customize exercises to help the upper and lower curves. She does this video with three other people, all of whom have different types of curves. I love this because you can pick the person who has the curve most similar to yourself so you can customize the exercises the same way that they do.   You do have to know the name and direction of your curve for this to really work [you can just ask whatever doctor did your latest x-rays]. 

The video is set up as one long track, so you may have to fast forward a bit to get to the actual exercise part (the intro explains curves and how to use the video). The exercise portion is about 50 minutes total, which I think is the perfect length for a video like this. 

She explains the positions as a voice over, so she can do all the positions as you are doing them. This makes this video a lot more fast paced than the “Healthy Back” DVD. The poses are held for a while, but there doesn’t seem to be as much “lost time” in explanations and changing positions. It does help to have all of the props nearby to allow for quick transitions. 

I felt amazing after this video! No extra pain or strain was added when I was done. I think this video could be perfect for the morning or night. I felt rejuvenated, but also relaxed. 

This video is really amazing for pain relief and relaxation for people with scoliosis, but I think it would be great for anyone with any type of back pain too. If you are interested in buying the DVD, you can buy it here. After you have watched it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 5/5 Stars

*****

o Amber Gregg o


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Married Sex | Jesse Kornbluth

“Don’t…pick…up…the rope. Because there is always someone at the other end. And once you have the rope in your hand, you’re in a tug-of-war. And you’ll lose. Even if you win, you’ll lose.”

Genre: Romance. 
Number of Pages: 246.
Perspective: First. 
Location: New York.

A book called Married Sex can only be about one thing, right? Married people having sex. Yes, kind of. Except this couple had an agreement that if they were ever considering cheating, they would have to bring that third person home so that they could be a part of it together. Strange? Yes. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I have to start off by saying that it was refreshing to read a book about marriage that was written by a male author and that also used a male perspective [and not a husband and wife alternating perspectives book]. This made me trust the opinions and thoughts of the main character more. Typically any love story written by a female but told from a male perspective feels inauthentic. This felt honest and raw to me. 

That rawness really made me feel uncomfortable. Here’s this couple that has been married for over twenty years and seem perfect on the outside. Then all of a sudden, things are no longer good and everything feels broken to both of them. It was an unpleasant look at marriage that I would really rather not read. It wasn’t written in a way that made me have new beliefs about marriage, just uncomfortable. I can’t describe it any better than that. When I read Fates and Furies, I was uncomfortable with the way it presented their marriage, but I appreciated some of the ideology behind it. 

Some of the things that happened in the book were just too unbelievable. I was also left with many unanswered questions. At first, I thought this book was going to be about a marriage made better by more sex, but really the relationship seems to be ruined by sex. The wife makes many complaints about how the husband behaves, but I thought that what she did was way worse than anything he did. None of it really made sense to me in the end. 

Overall, this book was worth a read. I think people who are married [or have ever been married] would appreciate it the most. Just don’t expect anything that will blow you away [unless if you love to read about threesomes—erhm]. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“But finding work worth doing and having people in your life worth doing it for…doing the best you can every day…that feels honorable to me.” 

 3/5 Stars

*****

o Amber Gregg o

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book, but it did not impact my review in any way.*



Friday, January 22, 2016

Q And A With Author Dean Robertson

Every once in a while, you meet someone that just makes you smile. Dean Robertson, author of Looking for Lydia; Looking for God, invited me into her home and she was so supportive and very open with me. I couldn’t ask for more than that.



Hi, Dean! Most writers strive towards a career of just writing, but how do you think that is different because you are already retired? What are your ambitions for your writing career? 
I guess all those years of reading and teaching literature and recognizing and admiring good writing were my preparation for writing when I didn’t even realize it.  My first writing experience, as I wrote in my guest blog for you, was unusual and not anything I could call the beginning of  “career of just writing.”  I wasn’t even planning to write that book.  Right now I am writing every day—mostly reviews of other people’s books and my own blog posts and I am editing manuscripts.   I seem not to be able to not write—even if it’s answering these questions for you.  My “ambitions” for my writing career, I suppose, include figuring out more strategies for marketing Looking for Lydia, continuing to write a weekly blog post, and when the time is right writing another book, and another one after that.  
How do you think being an English teacher impacted your writing? Were you more critical of yourself?
I partly answered that in the first question.  All that reading and thinking and talking about good literature and good writing just sank in at some deep level over many years.  I don’t know if I was more “critical” of myself, but I do instinctively write, read, rewrite, craft sentences, and choose words very carefully and thoroughly.  Without planning or any real effort I produced a clean manuscript on first draft; I think all that reading just instilled in me an intuitive grasp of sentence structure.  I grew up and spent my life looking at the printed word.  So, maybe not critical but certainly demanding.  Once I’ve produced that first draft, I go over and over and over it until it “sounds” right to me.
You gave me a great tip about the editing process: reading aloud. Can you go into more detail about that?
There’s a long story behind that which I’ll try to keep short.  When I first taught Faulkner to a class of high school juniors I found that the most effective way to “explain” some of the passages was to read them out loud, several times, and say to the class, “just listen.”  And they did.  Out of that grew a monthly play reading at my house—at the students’ request—where they came over, with lots of junk food, on a Sunday afternoon, and we assigned parts and stayed until we had read a whole play—we read everything from “Boys In The Band,” to “Hamlet.”  That started the whole reading aloud thing.  Then somehow I transferred that, probably along with my whole childhood experience of being read to, into having students read their essays out loud to themselves and each other as a way of “editing” before their final draft.  
So—fast forward to today—that is how I edit manuscripts for other people.  If you bring me your book and we agree that I’m going to edit it, what that looks like is that you and I are going to spend a lot of time on the telephone, both of us with the manuscript in front of us, and we are going to take turns reading it aloud, every single word, until we “hear” where the problems are and then again “hear” how something might sound better.  In nearly thirty years of doing it this way, I’m going to say there’s about a 100% chance that it will produce a 100% better finished product.  It’s hard work; it takes a lot of time.  In the last six months I have worked with a writer of an “intergalactic romance,” and the author of a children's detective story.  Neither had ever done it this way; both are sold!!  
I see this isn’t very short :-)  A final word: that’s how I edit my own writing.  I never let anything go without reading it out loud a whole bunch of times.  When I was writing Lydia, my cousin in Texas and I spent hours and hours on the telephone reading that book out loud to each other.
If you had written a book thirty years ago, do you think it would have been similar to the book you wrote now?
My first response to that was simply “No.” But maybe, in a way, yes.  Lydia is about a community of people who read and talk together and get very close, and that’s not unlike a class of students doing the same thing.  Because I was lucky enough to teach in independent secondary schools, the classes were small, the students hung out at my house,  and there was a strong sense of working hard, accomplishing something together, getting to know each other.  I also was beginning to teach the Bible as Literature at that time and had classes out in the community, one in particular was a Women in the Bible class that I taught for nearly four years and we definitely became good friends.  I write about that in Lydia.  But, still, thirty years ago I was not yet forty and there was a lot of road ahead of me.  Does anybody ever write the same book at forty that she might at nearly seventy?
How do you think your life experiences impacted your writing?
That’s a hard question.  My life experiences have made me who I am, a month shy of the 70th birthday, and that person wrote that book.  I have had a lot of pain and difficulty and loss in my life; I’ve got some miles of bad road behind me.  And I’m conscious of all of it—probably comes from all that reading :-)  I am just now thinking about an interview I read once with a well-known southern writer (whose name I can’t right this minute remember) and he was asked, “Why do you think there are so many good southern writers?”  His answer was, “Because we lost the war.”  And I’ll just leave it at that.
Writers tend to form a community with one another. What have your experiences been with this?
Very good experience with the writers I know personally who have come to me for editing or—not advice, but to hear about my writing experience or my journey through the wilds of the publishing world.  I have also been excited to discover the online writing community where there seems to be, for the most part, a sense of a group of people in it together who are eager to share their experience and any information they’ve gathered along the way.  I’ve run across a few folks online who are a lot more willing to take than to give, but that’s probably true of people in general.
Which writers inspire you?  
Joan Didion, Annie Dillard (especially For The Time Being), Emily Dickinson, Margaret Drabble, William Faulkner, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books, Tolkien, George Eliot’s Middlemarch.  The novels just because they’re wonderful (I don’t aspire to write fiction), Didion, Dillard, Kingston because they are models for my own non-fiction.  I wrote a long post on my blog about this.  And it occurs to me that several of the major essayists/journalists should be on that list: Roger Rosenblatt, George Will, Lewis Lapham, John McPhee, Lewis Thomas, I could go on—several regulars at The New Yorker—Anthony Lane, David Redneck. 
Why do you write?
I’m not at all sure, but I’m glad I do.  As I said earlier, I can’t seem to not write. 
Do you have any advice for someone looking to get published?
I’ll pass along something a wise friend said to me many years ago and on another subject, “Just continue.”
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Right now it’s finding time to sit down and begin my next book because—and this may sound odd—I am too busy writing to find time to write.  Book reviews, blog posts, a story for my grandson, and then the activity that has grown out of writing—editing and marketing.  My days are full.  All of which is honestly just an excuse for not being ready to sit down and do it.  Maybe the short answer to your question is “discipline.”
What is the easiest thing about writing?
I can do it at home in my underwear??
What books are you reading currently?
First, I’m catching up on what is now a stack of five issues of The New Yorker that I haven’t even opened—a first for me.  I have just finished re-reading Esther de Waal’s Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict and am about to begin Ferlo’s Sensing God.  Steve Wiegenstein’s A Slant of Light.
What is your favorite quote?
That’s a nearly impossible question—like what’s your favorite book, movie—but I’m going to say it might be Leonard Cohen’s “There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Probably just my whole life story and the story of every moment of my grandson’s nine months in this world.  
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Read my website at pdrobertson.com, the pages and the blogs.
Email me at pdroberts1@gmail.com.  I love getting emails, love engaging with people in “conversation,” on email, and I always always answer emails.
And, of course, buy my book!  Looking for Lydia; Looking for God
Thank you for this great conversation and for the tea! 

o Amber Gregg o

Also, check out Dean's article about her experience writing her first book at the age of sixty-nine!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Q & A With Author Stephen Leather


Hi Stephen, thanks for joining me today! What inspired you to write the Jack Nightingale series?

I always loved the Black Magic books of Dennis Wheatley when I was a kid and I’m a huge fan of the Constantine character in the Hellblazer comics (graphic novels as they prefer to be called these days). And I just love supernatural films, especially haunted houses and things that go bump in the night. With the Nightingale series I wanted to explore the supernatural world but with a hero who is very much grounded in reality. The first three books – Nightfall, Midnight, and Nightmare – really explain his backstory, how he became the man he is. The next two – Nightshade and Lastnight – explain why he had to leave the UK and the subsequent books will be set mainly in the United States, hence San Francisco Night and New York Night.

So it's clear what genre you're in. Do you have a specific writing style?

I try not to have a style. Like most journalists-turned-writers I try to tell my stories simply with uncluttered prose. If I find myself over-writing I tend to hit the delete key and start again. I try to write my books as if I was writing for a newspaper, where it’s the information that is being conveyed that’s important, not the style in which it’s written. I do like to write fast-paced books, with lots of dialogue and not too much descriptions. For me, the story is everything.

I can understand that. I've just read a few books with purple prose and I would appreciate an action-packed book right now. How did you come up with the title?

As Jack Nightingale is the hero, I decided it would be neat to have the word ‘Night’ in all the titles, though after Nightfall, Midnight, Nightmare, Nightshade and Lastnight I have to confess I was running out of options. I don’t think Nightdress was going to cut it as a title!  The rest of the titles will be the name of a city, plus Night. So I have already published San Francisco Night and New York Night, and later this year I hope to publish Miami Night.

That's a very cool approach. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The knee-jerk answer is that my books are to entertain and that I’m not trying to teach my readers anything, I just want to tell them a good story. But on reflection I do think most writers want their readers to put down a book having at least learned something. With my Spider Shepherd thrillers I do try to point out the way the world is changing, how it is becoming a more uncertain and dangerous place and how the authorities are trying to deal with that. With the Jack Nightingale books that mission to explain is less pronounced and really I am trying to tell a good story, though there is, of course, an underlying moral that good always triumphs over evil. The problem with that moral, of course, is that it isn’t true – evil often wins, which is sad.

That is very sad. What books have most influenced your life most?

The book I have read the most in my life is One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I love the way it’s such a small story but with such depth. It’s a book about character but through that character you understand an entire political system. I read Harry’s Game by Gerald Seymour several times before I wrote my IRA thriller The Chinaman. Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre was an inspiring book, but it is so good that after I read it I gave up thinking I could be writer for several years!

I've had some books do that to me too! Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read. Read a lot. Read good books and bad books and learn from them both. Write every day if you can. I think though that real writers don’t need advice, not about writing. Real writers will be constantly reading because they love books. And they will be constantly writing because they love to write. You need to find your own voice, you need to write the books that you want to write, or that you feel you have to write, and I don’t believe anyone else should be telling you what sort of books to write or how to write them. I don’t think real writers need advice because real writers are self-motivated to improve their craft. They know what needs to be done! Self-publishing is a different matter, there you do need advice because you have to take care of covers, blurbs, marketing and so on. Google self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and read everything he has to say about self-publishing and you won’t go far wrong!

Thanks for chatting and good luck with your new release! 

o Amber Gregg o


Monday, January 18, 2016

Q & A With Author Heather Weidner



Hi, Heather! Thanks for joining me in this discussion today! What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?
I would love to write full-time. Right now, I still have a day job that I love, but I’d like to be in a position that writing will be my retirement job.
That's a great goal. Since I am a newbie to Virginia Beach, where is your favorite place to go in the area?
Virginia Beach was a great place to grow up. 
I have lots of favorites…My favorite seafood restaurant is Rudee’s on the Inlet. I also love Chick’s Beach. Mt. Trashmore is a fun park. And I love the Virginia Aquarium and Science Center.  
I do love Chick's Beach too! A lot more private than the other beaches. I love that your dogs have their own page on your website. What impact do your dogs have in your life?
We have two crazy Jack Russells who kindly let us live in their house. They are bundles of energy that keep us on our toes. Everything is a game to a JRT.
That's so funny! Which writers inspire you?
I am inspired by so many writers. I’ve been reading the mystery genre since elementary school. In that world, Poe, Christie, Hammett, Spencer are at the top of my list. But I also love Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Collins, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickens, and Lee.
Give us an insight into how you create your main characters. 
I attended a Sisters in Crime presentation with a female Private Eye, and it was interesting to listen to her talk about her adventures. I thought it would be fun to create a character who wasn’t law enforcement, but she had some inroads into that world as a PI. My character, Delanie Fitzgerald, is a sassy young PI with a knack for getting in and out of humorous situations.
I love mysteries that have a slight bit of humor in them. What are you working on right now?
I’m working on book 2. Secret Lives and Private Eyes comes out in May 2016. I’m working on the follow up novel to that. I’m also working on some short stories for a themed anthology.
Good luck writing book two! What draws you to writing mystery books?
I love the puzzles. I love putting the clues together and trying to solve the crime or caper.
Is that also your favorite genre to read?

Mystery/thriller is my favorite genre. But I read lots of different books. I’m reading one on business communication and another on motivating teams. I love history and biography too.

How much research do you do before writing a book?
I do a lot of research to make sure that my scenarios or the ways that I’ve described them are accurate. I’m very fortunate. My dad is a retired Virginia Beach police captain, and he’s a great resource on all things police procedural. 
It's great that you have your own go-to person for answers. Why do you write?
I write because I enjoy it. And it’s wonderful when others want to read what you’ve created.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to get published?
Do NOT give up. Writing and getting published is hard work. You have to be willing to put the time and the energy into the entire process.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
The writing part is easy for me. It’s the editing and the reworking that takes time and a lot of sweat and tears.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
I like to brainstorm and plot. And then I love to just sit and write. The final draft doesn’t look very much like the first one. Chapters come and go. I changed the first chapter in Secret Lives and Private Eyes three times.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m reading Blah, Blah, Blah (about communicating better with work teams), Drive (about motivating teams), and The Feud (about the Hatfield and McCoy feud. I have a bad habit of reading several books at the same time.
I have that same bad habit. What is your favorite quote?
I have two favorites…
"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astair did, but backwards and in high heels."
~ Faith Whittlesey

"Well behaved women rarely make history."
~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I love both of those quotes as well! Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

One piece of advice that I have for new writers is to find a peer group of other writers. It’s great if you can find one in your genre. The support, advice, and encouragement is worth its weight in gold. I am so fortunate to have my Sisters in Crime, Virginia is for Mysteries, Lethal Ladies, and my Guppies groups. 


That's really great advice. How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Twitter: @HeatherWeidner1
I’m also in Pinterest, Goodreads, and Instagram. Stop in and see me. My debut novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes comes out in May.
I can't wait to check out your book when it debuts! Good luck in your writing and thanks again for joining me!

o Amber Gregg o

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Memory Thief | Emily Colin

“I fall asleep again thinking about what it feels like to have everything you want, only to lose it…and to know what you want, but not have it.”

Genre: Romance/Paranormal. 
Number of Pages: 432.
Perspective: Third Alternating (Three Different Perspectives). 
Location: United States.

The Memory Thief is a story about a man who dies in a tragic mountain climbing expedition. He left behind his best friend, wife, and son…at least in the physical sense. His spirit lingers to try to get a message back to his family.  For a complete summary, you can go here.

The first few chapters of this book had me hooked! It was an interesting premise and started off in the middle of the action. But then it turned stale. The middle felt redundant and slow. It was still an interesting idea, but so much of the excitement and intrigue quickly faded away. 

I liked the supernatural element of this story, but again, the idea fell flat. The majority of the book was spent on the wife’s new relationship after his death. I think that was important to the story, but this whole idea could have been expanded on a lot more. The book ended up being more of a romance story with some adventure subplots, rather than being a mystery/adventure, which is the vibe I got initially. 

I liked how there were three different perspectives. I almost could have gone for four in this particular book, which I have never said about a book. Usually lots of different perspectives make a book more confusing, but in this case I think it would have added a little bit of clarity (especially since I had the wrong idea about one of the main characters from the beginning, probably because I didn’t know if I could trust what he was telling people. Having his perspective would have cleared that up quickly). 

Side note: this has probably one of the most unrelated covers I’ve ever seen on a book. Yes, there is a mother and a son in the book, but the main theme is about mountains. A lake is not a part of the book. This was a lost chance at an awesome cover.

Overall, this book was interesting and I would recommend it. I think people who like love stories would appreciate this book the most. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“When you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, the universe will help you out. It may throw you a few curveballs, but they’re all in the name of a good cause. Once you leave your path behind, that’s when you start swimming upstream..”

 3/5 Stars

*****

o Amber Gregg o




Friday, January 15, 2016

Writing my First Book at Age Sixty-Nine

This is a guest post by Dean Robertson. 

I wish I could say, as I know many authors can, that I started writing as a child, that I wrote little stories which I read to my parents and my best friend. I wish I could say I have shelves of journals I kept in high school or college. I wish I could tell you I kept a writer’s journal during my three decades of teaching, meticulously recording conversations overheard in restaurants or descriptions of a woman’s dress or a man’s hat. 

I did none of those things. In the late 1970’s—before I started teaching full time—and in the early ’80’s—in the first years in the classroom, I wrote and published four essays. After that I must have realized that I had only so much passion in me and that mine was ignited in front of a chalkboard engaged in lively discussion with teenagers about literature. The only writing I did was to complete a good many essay assignment along with the students. 

Over the years, I have occasionally had what I now recognize were really very good ideas for long essays—the experience of recording books on tape; keeping bees; raising llamas. I did research, took notes, made outlines, but I never wrote those essays. I lacked the energy, or the interest, or the discipline required for sitting down and doing the job. For a long time I kept all that material in an old four-drawer oak file with brass labels from a railway office. Somewhere along the line, I misplaced the folders with the research, the notes, and the outlines. It would be difficult to reproduce them now. I gave the file cabinet to my son when he started his first teaching job. 

In 2006, I retired from teaching. I did not spend the next eight years preparing to write a book. I spent them catching up on old New Yorkers, reading the New York Times online, re-reading my favorite nineteenth-century novels—Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire and George Eliot’s Middlemarch—and a few more modern favorites—Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, Absalom, Absalom, and “The Bear”; Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe novels; and Margaret Drabble’s early ones. I’m sure there were many more. I read, and I discovered the guilty pleasure of naps. 

But one morning in March of 2014 I woke up early, as I always do, made a cup of tea, sat down at my laptop, and started writing. I wrote all day and into many nights—not eating well and certainly not sleeping enough—for about seven months. Friends worried; cousins called more often and threatened to visit; everyone was alarmed. I only talked to the few who wanted to hear about what I was writing. 

Sometime in October, Looking for Lydia; Looking for God appeared— over two hundred pages in my computer files. I had to admit it looked a good deal like a book, although I never once used that word until the day in January of 2015 that I signed a contract with a publisher. 

In a television interview on a local news station, I was asked, “What preparation did you do for writing this book?” On the YouTube video of that interview, I look puzzled for a minute before I smile and answer, “None.” 

I don’t know if that is strictly true. I spent my life reading very good literature. Although I didn’t write stories as a child, I read them. I was a compulsive reader; if I didn’t have a book, you could find me pouring over the back of the cereal box at the breakfast table. I have never been able to not read. My best memories of my father are of his reading to me at bedtime. There is a passage in Looking for Lydia: 

“Stories are meant to be heard and felt. One of my fondest memories from childhood is my father’s reading to me at night. I only wanted to hear one book, an old volume of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. We lived on two hundred acres of North Georgia woods, and my fantasy life consisted almost entirely of becoming Mowgli, the child raised by wolves, the child whose best friends, Baloo and Bagheera, were a great brown bear and a sleek and dangerous black panther. I read "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" and I longed for a mongoose. I remember very little about my father, a kind but distant man who died when I was sixteen, but I can still hear his voice, half a century later, reading those stories.”  

There was a guest post on this website whose title caught my attention, “You’re Not a Writer if You’re Not a Reader.” 

Maybe I did prepare for writing my first book at age sixty-nine. 



Dean Robertson is a retired English teacher; she is approaching seventy. She spent thirty years teaching literature in independent secondary schools and small private colleges. When she retired, Dean cut off her schoolteacher’s bun and headed to the Tidewater region of Virginia. In 2013 and 2014, she had a bad fall, convalesced at the Lydia Roper Home, bought a co-op, and wrote a book. In 2015, she found a publisher for that book and had her first grandchild. In 2016, she is now writing a weekly blog, supporting other writers, and working on her second book. 

Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is a spiritual memoir. It is a confession. It is a family saga and a cameo of life in a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the war ended, and the story of the mysteries that don’t get solved and the questions that don’t get answered. It is a study of the Bible that began in the Lydia Roper Home and has grown outward in the most unexpected ways. It is a story about growing older and a story about beginnings. It is a story for everyone. 
Looking for Lydia is available at:
You can read more about Dean Robertson or contact her at her website: 
pdrobertson.com OR by email at: pdroberts1@gmail.comDean answers all emails and enjoys getting them!