blog-header4

saved by the penBy guest blogger, Kathy Aspden, author of Baklava, Biscotti, and an Irishman. Kathy is in the process of wrapping up her second novel.

Early in my writing career, one of my favorite mentors dropped this pearl of wisdom: Flawed characters are more loveable.

I’m sure most writers (along with most people) already knew this. I didn’t. I was always trying to give my protagonist superhuman qualities, such as perfect motives or having a righteous cause on his or her side. The concept of a person selfishly wanting their own way simply because it’s what they wanted seemed almost evil.

What a boat I was missing! This one gift of advice changed my life completely. It was a revelation. We don’t love people because they are perfect; we love them because we love them.

It opened a whole new world to me, both in my writing and in my life. I suddenly couldn’t wait to create the next flawed character; the trick being to infuse complicated, negative traits that also generated love, sympathy, and relatable feelings. My kind of puzzle. 

I began writing about characters who did horrible things and were still worthy of love. I watched them suffer the anguish of their sins, further ruining their lives when they couldn’t make peace with themselves. I fabricated players willing to overlook the craziest of transgressions for the sake of love; or to reconcile their own unforgivable pasts. I wrote my way into the epiphany that the early life of a parent, even when well hidden, factors into the future misery of a child.

With every story I learned more about myself. I had been living a half-life, trying to hide, dismiss or spin my shortcomings into the image of perfection. It was exhausting—and unnecessary.

I realized even my opinions hadn’t been bendable. If I stated a belief or truism, fourteen years ago, it was written in indelible ink—leaving me no emotional ability to say, “I’ve changed my mind!” I was being held hostage by my own beliefs to opinions and ideas that no longer served me.

My life was a two-dimensional picture and I had no idea how to get to the depth of it without taking something back—saying I was wrong, admitting I was imperfect.

Five screenplays, two novels, countless blogs and short stories later, I’m happy to say that perfect ship has sailed. Writing about the lives of others has put my own life into perspective. I have a more genuine relationship with my children—who know beyond a shadow of a doubt I’m not perfect. My mother and I have never been closer. I laugh with my husband about the mistakes we’ve made (relationship, child rearing, financial), experiencing little to no shame. And I have to admit my siblings are relieved to have witnessed my swan-dive off the pedestal of perfection. In truth it was more of a belly flop. I’ve never been happier.

Am I a mess? For sure. Does being a mess help my writing? You bet! It’s a two-way street. My characters are now as fond of meas I am of them. We share a newfound love of deeply flawed people and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

britain learn english please2

In what amounts to a shot across the bow of our closest ally, the U.S. fired off a threat to the U.K. This one is over our common language.

According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. will institute a tariff on British words—large enough to discourage them from reaching American shores.

The problem turns on the issue of quality.

"You invented the damn language," said Pompeo. "Why can't you learn how to use it?"

The U.K.'s response was forceful but unclear. Prime Minister Theresa Maybe announced her intention to commence a "wah."

"What the hell is a "wah?" Pompeo asked? "Are they going to start building a WALL or start a WAR? Even our best interpreters can't figure it out."

Statesmen aren't the only befuddled Americans. Readers, too, have long been confused by writing from across the pond.

Mary Angelica Basquirk, head of the Society of Reading Engagement (SORE), speaks for millions of U.S. readers who despair over British-isms.

"Take the words 'colour' and 'honour'—neither rhymes with 'hour.' So why do they keep the u?" she huffed. "Webster pointed this out 200 years ago, and they still don't get it."

This time it's the Brits who are ready to toss the teabags into the harbor/harbour.

"Well and good," said Hypernia Flaven, U.K.'s trade secretary. "No more Jane Austen for Americans. That's it. And they'll have to do without Hardy, the Brontes, and Eliot—George, that is. They can have T.S., but only because he was American."

The BBC weighed in, as well. "If Americans ever think they'll see the likes of Downton Abbey again, more's the pity," said Sir Ian Bonbon, director of licensing. "And believe me: Maggie Smith will never set foot on U.S. telly again."

Given the seriousness of Britain's response, the administration is worried about a voter backlsh. A realignment is under consideration.

They'd better hurry though. the new Mary Poppins is about to open her brolly again in theaters/theatres across the country.


Cherie Belle Korteks, special to City Examiner
and LitLovers

reading under cloud3By Molly Lundquist, LitLovers
Don't know where
YOU live, but where I live we haven't seen sun since, well… since October 30th. A dark, heavy curtain dropped on us. BOOM—no second act.

Occasionally, we get a glimpse of a bright orb (or something) but never for long and NEVER two days in a row. Some speculate it might be the sun. but no one really knows.

If it sounds dreary, it is.

Ah, but there are lovely compensations. Cold, cloudy weather—plus the end of Day Light Savings—is all the excuse any of us need to hole up in our caves for a GOOD READ.

 

CLOUDY WEATHER READS
A Few Favorites


 • The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain
(See our LitLovers Book Review.)

How to Change Your Mind: The Science of Psychedelics - Michael Pollan (See our LitLovers Book Review by P.J. Adler.)

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock - Imogene Hermes Gowar
(See our LitLovers Book Review.)

Varina - Charles Frazier
(See our LitLovers Book Review.)

The Winter Soldier - Daniel Mason


I live in Pittsburgh, by the way. But I've noticed that a lot of the country from the Midwest to the East Coast hasn't had terrific weather either lately, so I figure lots of us have turned to BOOKS—a heartening thought.


5 day reading fastNew York City — In a shocking move today, the book trade called for a 5-DAY READING FAST.

"We've seen the research," said Sara Reed of St. Mable's Press. "Too much reading GUNKS UP the brain." Science, you know.

"Try dumping pancake batter all over your car engine," she said. "It goops up the system so it can't work efficiently."

The industry is woke. Readers, the experts say, need a DEEP CLEANSE—a halt to reading for 5 days.

When asked if fasting will cut into sales, Pytor Gloverloft, the owner of Kansas City's TOP-SHELF BOOZE & BOOKS, believes readers will return in droves—with a renewed thirst for fiction.

"Readers need a break," he says." We predict they'll begin to read with intensified FOCUS and EMPATHY."

How should readers break their fast? "With JANE AUSTEN, of course!" says Gloverloft. "Small sips of 18th-century social satire—there's nothing better."
 


Cherie Belle Korteks, special to City Examiner
and LitLovers




NYT book review logo

June 10, 2018

creatures reading

 

 

dailynews-header4



#MomsAreMad Fights Back Against Books
mothers against disrespect


Tired of being "knocked off" in books


May 13, 2018:
"We used to get KNOCKED UP. Now we get KNOCKED OFF," said Iva Hadanov, a 55-year-old mother in Reading, Penna. "Knocked up was better."

Hadanov is not alone. On Mother's Day, moms around the country took to the streets to protest their treatment at the hands of authors and publishers.

"Authors have been GETTING RID of us in novel after novel. We're damn sick of it!" Hadanov exclaimed.

Like wildfire
As #MomsAreMad spread across the country—publishers, politicians, and pundits have been stunned by how quickly it went viral.

"By Jove! This thing's growing like wildfire," said NBC's Cal Brittlebastion.

"These gals are over 50. We had no idea they knew what social media was, let alone how to use it," he added.

A 300 year history
Killing off fictional mothers goes back to the first novels—at least to the 1700s with Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders and continuing into the 1800s with Dickens's David Copperfield.

The 20th century saw the likes of Anne of Green Gables and Nancy Drew—no mothers. Solve THAT one, Nancy.

Far more recent novels also lack mothers: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Ahab's Wife, The Goldfinch, I Liked My Life, to name only a few.

Smeared
Bernadette Peters, star of stage and screen, is #MAM'S most celebrated voice

"I've been SMEARED. They didn't just kill me off," steamed Peters. "They made me a child deserter!"
She is referring, of course, to the 2012 bestselling Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

"Of course it's me," piped Peters. "WHAT OTHER  Bernadette is there?"

Male support
Surprisingly, #MAM has drawn support from men.

"The sooner they win this thing, the sooner they'll be back in the KITCHEN," said one man, who wished to remain anonymous.



Fronta Loeb, special to The Daily News and LitLovers.

answer to questionsSometimes we want answers to life's profound questions. Why am I here? What's my purpose?

Sometimes we just want them for Book Club.

Here at LitLovers, we get a fair number of emails, asking for the answers to our Discussion Questions. Here's the latest :

Tim writes
We talked about American War by Omar al Akkad in my book group the other day, using the discussion questions found on LitLovers. The group couldn't decide on the best answers to some, so I'm writing to see if you have any answers for them?


I'm sorry, Tim, we don't. Sometimes, the questions are issued by the publishers, as they are with American War; more often, at LITLOVERS we end up writing our own for a particular book. In either case, we don't have specific answers.

Confession: Sometimes we don't even have answers to our OWN questions.

It's anybody's take, really, because the questions are designed to be OPEN ENDED—to stimulate discussion. They're not meant to have a single right answer but to result in different possibilities.

Book clubs tell us that their best discussions are those with different viewpoints, each one as legitimate as the next. It's what makes conversations about books so rewarding: I say PO-TAY-TOE … you say PO-TAH-TOE.

Even authors acknowledge that readers bring different interpretations to a book that they'd never considered. That doesn't make those ideas—or readers—wrong.

On the contrary, new meanings—created through the act of reading, by individual readers—make literature all the richer. Luminaries like Peter Carey and Margaret Atwood, both Man Booker Prize winners (Peter Carey twice!), have told us as much.

So the point is … you DON'T (really) WANT answers to book club questions. That would ruin the fun.



same old same old4Read a book. Discuss the book. Read a book. Discuss the book. Read a bo … yeah, yeah.

Monotous? Maybe. The other day I received an email asking for book ideas paired with activities surrounding cooking, music, and gardening …or anything else that might perk up the meeting.

We came up with a few ideas. If you've got any others, we'd love to hear.


1. Sourdough by Robin Sloan: discuss the book, then…

…bake sourdough loaves using live culture. Or bake the bread first… then discuss the book AFTER you pop the bread in the oven.


2. Lab Girl by Hope Jaren or
    The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert: discuss the book, then…

…set up a potting table with pots, potting soil, spades, etc., and have members plant individual tree saplings or some sort of outdoor plant (everyone could even name their plant for a favorite novel or character: Anatomy of a Miracle, H is for Hyacynth; The Secret Life of Violet Grant; Upstart Lizzie Bennet).


3. American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee: discuss the book then…

…watch a National Geographic wolf documentary on YouTube: She Wolf is good (the wolf featured in the film is the same female wolf ,"0-6," featured in the book); Living with Wolves: Jim and Jamie Dutcher is good, too.


4. Last Days of Night by Graham Moore: discuss the book, then…

…watch PBS's American Experience: Tesla or BBC's Nikola Tesla. OR...make an easy electric motor (see instructions on YouTube or... invite a physics teacher to demonstrate how one is made. They're so cool: my husband made one for me years and years ago!)


5.  Bel Canto by Ann Patchet: discuss the book, then…

…listen to recordings, or watch videos, of Renee Flemming (on whom Patchet based her book; they're friends) OR...invite a singer/voice teacher to demonstrate operatic techniques: opera singers NEVER use mikes (unlike Broadway singers) yet even their softest notes can be heard in a 2,500 seat concert hall—an astonishing feat requiring years of study.


6. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George: discuss the book, then…

…set up a one-night "bookshop": members bring anywhere from, say, 3 to 5 books to exchange with others OR consider setting up a "Little Free Library" somewhere OR, like Monsieur Perdu, have members bring one book and talk about how that particular book helped them cope with a difficult problem or period in their lives.

 

 

chiller thrillers 350pxRecognize any of the phrases to the left?

Hard not to. They're taken verbatim from reviews of suspense novels and are repeated over and over in cover blurbs and ads (because, really, how many ways can you say "exciting"?).

Add to that…nearly every thriller gets hailed as "THE NEW GONE GIRL OR THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN!!!!!"

My problem is I've grown tired of heart-thumpers (a phrase not on the list, btw)—of being on the edge of my seat for 384 pages—and reading in PANIC MODE.

So Dear Reader, confession: I skip ahead … to the last couple of pages. I need to see if my favorites make it through intact so that I can just settle back and enjoy the ride. After all, isn't that the point of reading—to savor the words, their rhythms and nuances and to luxuriate in wherever a story happens to take us?

Listen, I LOVE a good thriller—every now and then. But it should come as no surprise that, since Gone Girl, thrillers have been flooding the market. It seems as if the publishing industry has gone mad with its outpouring of beautiful psychopaths.

Worse, even writers of "literary fiction" are adding touches of thrillerdom to jazz up their plots and, I guess, juice up their sales. Oh, well. 'Nuf said.


grammar policeThey're off their game … unless maybe they've already thrown in the towel — because sometimes it feels like nobody's out there doing the dirty work, pulling in the perps. I'm talking about the Grammar Police.

Celebrities, politicians, pundits, authors, even the vaulted New York Times — all of them — are getting away with grammatical homicide.

This one came in today. It's subtle all right, but indicative of a downward slide into lawlessness. I count 2 "lock-em-ups" right off the bat. So let's read it and unpack it.

There's people that have been trying to line up for the opportunity.

 

1. THERE'S people
Oops: "people" is plural, so we say, "There are people" or "There're people." We don't say, "There is people" or "There's people."

  1. There're books in the library. — There's a book on the table.
  2. There're mice in the field. — There's a mouse in the house.
  3. There're lots of people. — There's a lot of people.


2. There's people THAT
Oops again: "people" are, well … people, and we use who when referring to homo sapiens. "That" or "which" refers to things.

  1. The person who gave me the book is my aunt.
  2. The aunt who gave me the book is my favorite.
  3. The people who read the book loved it.
  4. The ones who loved the book are my friends.

 



Both of these are common crimes. Pay attention and you'll start noticing how often you hear "there's" instead of "there're" … and "that" instead of "who."

Okay, then. Let's have another go at the sentence:

There're people who have been trying to line up for the opportunity.


Even better is this (try to avoid starting a sentence with "there"):

People have been trying to line up for the opportunity.


Let's face it, though: does any of it really matter? For me, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard, but in the larger scope of things … I'm not sure it does matter.

*Oops! Here's another one just in: "There’s help-wanted ads everywhere." —1/11/2018



Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2018