November 2015 archive

Readers Unite

WE’VE ALL BEEN IN THAT BOOK GROUP. You know. Where members used to show up to discuss the book, but now come full-to-the-brim with details of their sister’s divorce, or their boss’s bankruptcy, or their kid’s awful new soccer coach. Not that I’m one to throw stones! I love an off-topic discussion as much as (if not more than) the next person.

Book-ClubStill, with the new year on the horizon, this might be the perfect time to get your book group to commit to a resolution or two. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Looking for some book suggestions for your club?

And if all this chummy club-talk makes you long for a reading group of your own, you can start—or find—a book club near you. Just visit Reader’s Circle and enter your zip code in their database. Then, voila! Connect with your book-loving cohort and read on!

Congratulations Station!

HUGE CONGRATS TO PUSHCART-NOMINATED AUTHOR LINDA DUNLAP on the 51NyDtXrNlL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_publication of her short story collection, RAIL WALKING! Featuring stories set in the South, Dunlap’s theme is man’s battle with himself [in situations such as] the guilt over an imperfect child, the disruption of a marriage, and the almighty task of loving the unlovable. The glue that binds these stories is hope, a gift that saves Dunlap’s characters from despair, as they struggle to make sense of their imperfect world.

Join Linda Dunlap for the launch of RAIL WALKING on Wednesday, December 16th, from 6-8 p.m. at Writer’s Block Bookstore, 124 Welbourne Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789.

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A SHOUT OUT JudyMug2 TO MIDDLE RIVER PRESS for garnering two silver medals from Florida Authors and Publishers Association, one each for RIGHT SMART TO SAY, by Robert Gore III (best adult non-fiction) and LEA, THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL, by Brenda Sue Thompson, illustrated by Kayla Olson (best children’s picture book). Founded by Judy (pictured) and Bruce Borich. Middle River Press includes an extended group of editors, proofreaders, designers, illustrators, printers and photographers. Their recipe works! In five years, MRP has received more than ten awards!

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37bce274-be5e-4446-b1b4-667fd2efa284A ROUND OF APPLAUSE, TOO, TO CHRISTINA BENJAMIN, on the success of her YA series, THE GENEVA PROJECT. To thank her fans, Benjamin has made the first book in the series, TRUTH, a free download on all platforms! Click for *Free Download for Kindle *Free Download for Nook  *Free Download for iTunes *Free Download for Kobo

Writing Prompt: A Rose by Any Other Name

WHEN I WAS A KID—six years old—I had a classmate named “Frederika.” A fine name, my six-year-old self thought, and, promptly, I renamed myself for her (although my parents never quite caught up). Then, at twelve, I first heard the name “Zoë.” That was it! A perfect name for me. But, again, my parents wouldn’t sign on, and the Zoë I could have been died an unremarked death.

When I was sixteen, I named myself “Star,” and faithfully penned a red-Bic star onto my forehead every day for a year. This was a slightly more successful renaming. (In fact, having now returned to the town where I endured teen-hood, occasionally, I run into someone who greets me with a “Hi, Star! It’s been a while!”)

At nineteen, after watching SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER for the thirteenth time, I adopted a new last name: “Mangano,” in honor of John Travolta’s social-climbing love interest, Stephanie Mangano. (And, okay, although I’m a little embarrassed to admit to it, I was known as MJM by my closest friends for a few years after, for “Marvelous Jamie Mangano.” What can I say? I was young and the actual requirements of being truly marvelous in this world were still a mystery to me.)

In an earlier blog post, I talked about POEMCRAZY, in which author Susan Wooldridge discusses the act of renaming as a way to resuscitate some aspect of ourselves that may be starved for oxygen. “New names seem to change people,” she says.

In the POEMCRAZY chapter “Our Real Names,” Ronnie, a young man in juvenile hall renames himself, thusly:

Let’s talk about death.
Yesterday my name was James.
Today, it’s tossing helium dream.
Tomorrow, my name will be
Gerald Flying off the Cliff,
Dave Mustang.
Inside my name is
dying heart,
and a lotta hope.

My parents named me for a racehorse, Jamie K., who gave Native Dancer a run forjamiek his money in the Preakness and the Belmont a few years before I was born. This naming, perhaps, explains my early interest in horses—in a family in which no one else has ever ridden or owned a horse. And while that’s a fun story, and “Jamie” is a perfectly acceptable name, I have always wondered…. If I had lived my life as a Frederika or a Zoë—or even as a Grace or a Claire—would I have experienced the world differently?

I guess I’ll never know. Because, ultimately—unlike actress Sigourney Weaver, who, born “Susan Alexandra Weaver,” renamed herself, at the age of fourteen, after a minor character (Sigourney Howard) in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel THE GREAT GATSBYI let the name I was given harden around me. Until, now, it’s hard to tell where my name ends and I begin.

Writing prompt

How about you? What secret names do you have hidden in the roll-call of your deepest self? Make a list of them! Next, write out a pivotal scene from your life as you remember living it. Finally, take one of your secret names and begin a third-person account of the same situation, starring someone who bears a strong resemblance to you, but who answers to the name you chose. Allow the scene to deviate from the one you remember—and allow your other-named self to experience a different outcome.

Sometimes Art . . .

12191752_796580270470921_1313248362431253998_nDSCN0534IF REVISION* WERE A DOG, it would wear a hat and be foolish in public, because revision would want to get the most DOG out of each moment that it could. If revision were a fish, it would be out of water and dragging its school behind. If revision were an interior decorating scheme, it would cry out for spangle-y pinks and purples—unless it wanted the heat of reds and oranges—unless it wanted the cool underwater of blues and greens.

Sometimes art is the answer—but sometimes it’s revision. Sometimes it’s about seeing your work-in-progress as so many puzzle pieces, which you have to turn and match and try to fit. But sometimes it’s about diving deeper.

Sometimes revision wants to be smacked around, which can be a little scary—unless you have a safe word, and sometimes revision does have a safe word, in which case, it’s okay to play rough, which, sometimes, revision likes.

Revision’s about re-visioning, it’s about looking at what you’ve already done and asking what else you can do. But revision’s not “editing.” If writing were an injury, revision would be surgery, not massage.

Revision is a bit of a shepherd’s crook, tugging you off the stage when you think you’re ready to be out there. Revision knows when you haven’t fully paid your dues. Revision wants you to work harder—it’s stubborn like that. But revision will reward your work with a bag of gold so full you’ll be able to scatter coins far and wide, feeding the entire populace of your life—once you’ve done what revision wants you to do.

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* The art illustrating this post is a before-and-after of a piece I created in one of my art journals. It’s easy, often, to get stalled at an early stage of a piece of art or a piece of writing. Difficult, sometimes, to push through to the next level. Risky, always, to do so.

I’m grateful to Tammy Garcia—creator of Daisy Yellow Art and the extraordinary Daisy Yellow Facebook group—for her continuing inspiration. The lessons I’ve learned from Tammy and crew have helped me be more courageous on the page.


Survival: Omegaland Tarot Review

OMEGALAND TAROT, CREATED BY JOE BOGINSKI, lives in a post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest (at least, it looks like the PNW to me). Characters in the deck are cartoon-ish, with sometimes-exaggerated limbs.They are placed in harsh situations, and there are topic-appropriate references to violence in the deck—although few images are really gory. Still, despite the desperate times depicted throughout the deck, I find the characters very human—and the deck, overall, surprisingly warm (and, somehow, reassuring).

As a tarot, OMEGALAND is brilliant in its close interpretation of the imagery of the classic Rider Waite Smith Tarot. index150px-Wands07 For instance, the OMEGALAND Seven of Wands shows two armed men in a lookout tower, protecting their encampment. Below them sit five of their “tribe,” also armed.  Compare this to the standard RWS Seven of Wands, in which a single armed man on high defends his territory!

And Temperance? Just as in the RWS illustration, a figure pours water from one container into another. Unlike the RWS version, though, in OMEGALAND, the figure filters the water as she pours! (Clean water is a big deal when you’re a survivalist!)

As smart as his tarot interpretations are, Joe Boginski is every bit as much an artist as he is a tarot-ist. He attended New York’s School of the Visual Arts, and exhibited the original OMEGALAND drawings—11×14″, colored pencil and ink on paper—at Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery in Stamford, Connecticut.

For OMEGALAND, Boginski employs a color palette I would call “moody”—lots of soft browns and greens punctuated with brighter colors. There’s a wonderful consistency to the artwork throughout the deck—excepting the Nine of Swords. That particular card is illustrated by a figure shown at a much different angle and seen from much closer proximity than any of the other figures in the deck. (In fact, Omegaland’s Nine of Swords reminds me very much of the Dreamer Nine card—Nine of Swords—in Emily Carding’s Tarot of the Sidhe.)

Card titles and suit names are standard, but the imagery is true to the survivalist theme: Wands are represented by rifles and pistols; Cups are canteens or other water containers; Coins are cans of soup(!); and Swords are crossbows.

For tarot readers and collectors, this deck offers lots of good basics: Nice card stock and  a smooth satin finish give it a good shuffle. Cards are generously sized—at 2.95″ x 4.75″, they’re a bit wider than the norm. The fun, non-reversible backs show an image of a boarded up doorway. Soft-edged borders add to the scenes, rather than detracting—and card titles are written in a great font!

There’s also a quirky little illustrated bit of “masking tape” at the upper left corner of each of the Minors—including the Courts—inscribed with a single number, or a letter and a number, that signifies points for the Omegaland game. And about that game. . . . The deck includes six extra game cards, and the LWB dedicates the last dozen pages to instruction about the game. Which I haven’t played. Which I probably won’t play. But don’t let that stop you!

Published by US Games Systems, Inc., this fab deck is available in all the usual places.

Thanks to Tarot by Arwen for her excellent video review of the OMEGALAND TAROT. Her review pushed me over the edge (into Amazon’s waiting arms).


5 Paths to Amazon Success!

REMEMBER WHEN AN “AMAZON” search retrieved an aerial photo of the Amazon River, first? It wasn’t that long ago, folks! Now, intrepid authors must navigate—as much a challenge as navigating the river whose name the mega-bookseller bears.

As with the river, if you’re going to launch your (literary) raft on, it’s good to have an experienced guide! I’ve beat the bushes and found a backpack’s worth of articles by writers who know how to swim—not sink—in the shifting Amazonian rapids.

  1. In “How to Get a Truckload of Reviews on Amazon,” author-marketing guru Penny Sansevieri shares ways to find quality reviewers for your book—important because more reviews = greater visibility!amaindex
  2. In “How to Launch Your Book,” Tim Grahl, author of YOUR FIRST 1000 COPIEStakes writers through a step-by-step process to turn your own contacts into reviewers.
  3. On Savvy Bookwriters, there’s a discussion on book covers and book category placement: “How to Improve Your Amazon Sales Page.”
  4. Novelist Lindsay Buroker offers strategies for maintaining momentum in “How Do You Maintain Steady Books Sales.”
  5. And if your book is languishing online? Indie book distributor Smashwords’ post on “Six Tips to Bring Your Book Back from the Doldrums” might help!
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lexi_leaderboard_728-90And speaking of reviews, writer pal Jon Fore’s latest fantasy adventure, SCROLLS OF THE HARLEQUIN, has just been released! He’s offering free e-copies to any of my readers willing to give it a review. If you’re interested, contact Jon at


The Guilty Pleasure

c400318c-a294-4015-ae62-2c1545d20240WRITER’S BLOCK BOOKSTORE has partnered with Rollins College to bring master thriller writer David Baldacci to Central Florida! Baldacci, who has published 30 international bestsellers, will appear in Mills Memorial Hall, on the Rollins College Campus, on Friday, December 1st, at 6:30 pm, to promote his latest book, THE GUILTY.

davidBaldacci is also the founder of Wish You Well Foundation, an organization that provides books—as well as food—to those in need, through Feeding Mind and Body. Donate new or gently used books at the signing! Contact Lauren Zimmerman at Writer’s Block for more info.
Call: (407) 335-4192 Email:

Writing Prompt: Singing the Blues

IN HONOR OF THAT OTHER AMERICAN tradition, join me and make a list of your current woes. Together, we can sing the blues! (I know. This runs counter to the most fundamental of Thanksgiving philosophies—but once we’ve purged our troubles, I’m betting we’ll be better-primed to list our blessings come November 26th!)

Writing prompt

So, we’ll start by creating our lists. Go ahead and jot down your current afflictions—as many or as few as you choose. Here’s my short list:

  • My BFF from wild-childhood just turned 60. Which means—guess what—I’m not far behind.
  • According to my periodontist (my relationship with whom is, in itself, worthy material for a blues song), I’m gearing up for a third gum graft.
  • If you look closely enough (and please don’t) you can see that my hair is thinning at the part.

Okay, now let’s turn our blues into blues LYRICS!51Z8W1N5JRL

12-bar blues lyrics are pretty simple: The basic verse pattern is AAB, AAB, AAB . . . for as long as you’ve got something to sing about. All three lines of each verse rhyme—and the first two lines of each verse are (almost) identical. Oh! And don’t forget to give your song an awesomely pitiful title. Here’s mine:

The Not Getting Any Younger Blues

A. My ol’ best friend’s gone way past the halfway point
A. Yeah, my ol’ best friend’s gone way past life’s halfway point
B. Now, I’m shuffling along just a step behind her,
hard of hearing and creaky of joint

A. My ol’ periodontist, he’s tellin’ me my gums are too thin
A. Yeah, my ol’ periodontist’s sayin’ my pink ol’ gums are thin
B. I gotta lay back in his chair again an’ let him patch some roof-of-my-mouth skin back in

A. My good ol’ hair’s thinner now than when I was young and fine
A. Oh, my good ol’ hair’s thinner than when I was young and fine
B. So I’m doin’ a swoop-di-doop comb-over just to cover up the ever-widening line

A. My ol’ best friend’s gone way past the halfway point
A. Yeah, my ol’ best friend’s gone way past life’s halfway point
B. I’m just shuffling along, hard of hearing, creaky of joint, and only one step behind

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If you’ve shuffled along this far with me, and want to learn more about the blues, check out PBS’s Blues Classroom and Danny Chicago’s “How to Write the Blues”!

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