Women Writers Wednesday 6/3/15

Here’s an informal poll: what books have changed your life?

I’m not looking for a Facebook-viral list of 25 Important Books You’d Die on a Desert Island Without or anything like that. I want to know, what that one book is which changed something vital about your existence. You might have ten favorite books you could no sooner rank than you could choose a favorite among your children or pets. This is not that dilemma. What is the one piece of literature that made some aspect of you profoundly different?

There are many books which have affected me deeply, no doubt, in a variety of ways. But one book that absolutely changed the course of my life is Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. This book, and dinner with the author himself at a mutual friend’s home, inspired me to pursue fiction writing seriously rather than to get another degree in poetry. The course of my professional life was forever and probably irrevocably altered by this choice.

I’d love to know what book has mattered this much to you. In the comments below, leave an anecdote about a single book that has meant something special. In fact, the first five people to respond will get a free copy of Finis. for themselves or gifted to someone else.

Today’s Women Writers Wednesday comes to us from Carla Jean Whitley about a book which had a deep and lasting impact on her.

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If you’re a bookworm, you’re probably acquainted with the experience of a book hangover, if not the term itself. It’s the feeling that overcomes you when you approach the end of a book that has captured not only your attention, but your heart. Book hangovers follow the stories, essays, or poems that affect a life so powerfully, it becomes hard to believe there are other books worth your time.

Within the first two chapters of Anna Quindlen’s “How Reading Changed My Life,” I knew that I’d encountered just such a book. In this essay collection, Quindlen recounts the value of reading, whether the object of your affection is high-brow literature or a novel from childhood. It’s only 96 pages, and so I was mourning its inevitable conclusion by the end of the second chapter.

from Random House's publicity site
from Random House’s publicity site

“How Reading Changed My Life” immediately found a place on the shelf among my favorite, most-trusted books. It’s a book I turn to time and again, and one I frequently select as a gift for fellow readers.

And while this remains the book of Quindlen’s I cherish the most, it is also the gateway drug. Her columns for the New York Times and Newsweek are compelling—she won a 1992 Pulitzer for her Times work, after all—and in the books that have collected those, I’ve found a kindred spirit. Quindlen is a writer, a mom, and a wife who offers insight on all areas of life. She left nonfiction years ago with the intent of working solely as a novelist (and her recent Still Life with Bread Crumbs is my favorite of her fiction). But over the years, Quindlen has continued to shed light on family, politics, life, and age. She is a woman I love to read.

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Carla Jean Whitley is a writer, editor, and teacher based in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is a features writer for Alabama Media Group. She is the author of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music and Balancing Act: Yoga Essays. Her next book, Birmingham Beer: The Role of Alabama’s Largest City in Changing the State’s Beer Culture, is scheduled for release this spring. Connect with her at carlajeanwhitley.com.

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To see more kinds of reviews like the ones in this series, check out these blogs by Melanie Page and Lynn Kanter. And of course go to the Sappho’s Torque Books page here to see other reviews by me and by other contributors to the Women Writers Wednesday series.

The Women Writers Wednesday series seeks to highlight the contributions of women in literature by featuring excellent literature written by women authors via reviews/responses written by other women authors. If you’d like to be a contributor, wonderful! Leave a comment below or send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message with your idea.

FINIS. On Super Sale for One More Day

Hey there. You may be aware that my ebook Finis. has been on super sale for the holidays. There’s just one day left (tomorrow, Monday) to get it at the discounted price of 99 cents! After that it goes back up.

Remember that you don’t need an e-reader to access Finis. If you don’t have one, all you need is a smartphone or tablet or laptop. Amazon has a free Kindle e-reader app that lets you make any device compatible. I’ve used it myself on my phone and laptop and found them super easy to use.

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Here’s the blurb of what Finis. is about and some advance praise for the story:

Elsa’s family grows more unkind by the week. Her boss, a seven-foot-tall rage demon, has control of everything but his anger. And her cat wants to eat her. Things could be better.

In a world where one’s Animal Affinity is a sign of maturity and worth, Elsa’s inability to demonstrate hers is becoming more than a disappointing nuisance; it’s becoming a danger. She has no confidence she’ll ever conquer her Plainness by “blossoming.” She also fears both the wolf packs that prowl her neighborhood and being stuck in a life plummeting rapidly from lackluster to perilous. Fortunately, she has a cousin and a co-worker who know her better than she knows herself and can see through to what society won’t.

FINIS. is the magic realism of our time, a story of finding one’s way to the end of things, of persevering through the dregs of life to discover something more.

“It’s not often I get that viscerally emotional on behalf of a fictional character. In a setting of overt fantasy, Angélique Jamail has created some of the most real people I’ve encountered via text in a long time.” — Ari Marmell, author of the Widdershins series and HOT LEAD, COLD IRON

“A silver vein of irony runs through Angélique Jamail’s fantastic Finis. It is a witty tale of conformity, prejudice, and transformation, in a world that is disturbing as much for its familiarity as for its strangeness. In a place where everyone is different, Elsa is the wrong kind of different, and that means facing pity, discrimination, danger, and sharp teeth. Dive into this story, readers, and confront them for yourself; it may just change the way you feel about things…” — Marie Marshall, author of I AM NOT A FISH and THE EVERYWHEN ANGELS

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And here are the links where you can buy the ebook:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Oyster Books

Scribd

Kobo

Baker & Taylor’s Blio

Apple’s iBooks Store

I hope you’ll take advantage of this special offer. And tell your friends. Thank you, as always, for all of your support! I appreciate my readers so much. And if you’ve read Finis., please leave a review at Amazon or on Goodreads or on the story’s Facebook page — or anywhere else you’ve bought or seen it. I love hearing from you.

Thanks again!

12 Days of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck, 2014 Edition (Day 6)

So have you finished your holiday shopping yet? I sure haven’t. Maybe I can get around to that on Tuesday, because, you know, hope springs eternal.

You know, if you’re stuck trying to figure out what to get for someone, Finis. just went on super-sale today. No idea how many days that will last, but it won’t be very long. You can find it at the various links below for just 99 cents, for a limited time.

And in honor of the shopping frenzy — but also very much because I’m thrilled that some of my cousins arrive from out of town tomorrow — I’m giving you a Straight No Chaser song today, “Christmas Can-Can.” What’s the family connection, you might ask? One of the guys in Straight No Chaser is my cousin-in-law.

Enjoy! And get that consumerism on. Time’s a-wasting!

*heavy snark*

*maybe*

 

 

And speaking of cousins, where can you buy Finis.?* So glad you asked! Be sure to spread the word. (It’s just about the only way to sell books these days.)

Amazon

Smashwords

Oyster Books

Barnes and Noble

Scribd

Kobo

Baker & Taylor’s Blio

Apple’s iBooks Store

*  Did you see what I did there? Yep, those of you who’ve already read Finis. will understand.

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P.S. — It appears that the music videos aren’t showing up in the emails when these posts go out to my blog subscribers. Don’t know why that’s happening, but the videos are showing up nicely when you click on the link in the email to go to the blog directly. Thanks for subscribing, and thanks for clicking in!

Take Two — They’re Small!

I just had to get in on the Cyber Monday thing. Finis. is on sale for the holiday season! Only $2.99! And what a great virtual stocking stuffer it makes.  😉

 

cover design by Lauren Volness
cover design by Lauren Volness

 

Where all can you find it? (And note that several new distribution channels have come online, listed below.)

 

Amazon — If you want the links for countries outside the USA, leave a comment below indicating which one, and I’ll happily provide it.

Apple’s iBooks Store — If you want the links for countries other than the USA, leave a comment below indicating which ones, and I’ll happily provide it.

Barnes and Noble

Baker & Taylor’s Blio

Kobo

Oyster Books

Scribd

Smashwords

 

While you’re browsing around, feel free (if you’ve already read Finis.) to leave a review. I love hearing from my readers!

And just to whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from the story, the first chapter:

1

ELSA’S PARENTS and sister have become meaner than usual, and her cat, Jonas, resents her. She has a nagging concern he wants to eat her.

“He bit me again this morning — I woke up to find half the toes on my left foot in his mouth! I kicked him away but he just came back, all fangs and hissing, till I locked him in the coat closet.”

But that’s only the beginning, Elsa tries to explain to her cousin Gerard. She has to speak in short bursts: he’s conducting his water exercises, his head bobbing in and out of the water in orderly arcs. She knew she’d be interrupting his routine, but this morning’s episode has brought things to a head. On her way to work, anxiety commandeered her every thought and movement. Before she could catch her breath, she found herself tearing through Gerard’s garden gate and rushing to his salt-water pool.

“Oh, Elsa,” he says, his feet spiraling around a large stalk of kelp just below the water’s surface. He runs a watery hand across his spiky brown hair, and brine curls down his back. “What are you going to do?”

“What’s even worse, my landlord left another threat-of-eviction notice today.” She sets her briefcase down near a baby potted corpse flower and ventures closer to the pool. “I’ve done nothing wrong. My rent is always on time. I’m a quiet, orderly tenant. I thought getting a cat would mollify the building association, but unless I become a cat, I don’t think it’ll help.”

Gerard dunks, flips neatly into a ball, and spins back up; he swims to where she stands at the edge of the pool and rises. “Have you had any hints of your self?” He looks at her carefully, scrutinizing, and she wants to shrink into the empty void of mediocrity. Still, his voice is tender. “Anything at all?”

“No,” she murmurs, mesmerized by the ripples his body makes, the way the water slaps against the side of the pool and then laps backward over itself, folding the brine under to dissolve in a never-ending cycle of thrash and renewal.

“I’m not sure I approve of where you’re living, anyway. Those nasty gangs — I read about them in the newspaper. Packs attacking Plain Ones right and left, even children.”

“I saw that, too. They usually go for adults, though — people who ought to have blossomed by now.” Her shame for the disgrace she’s caused her family burns on her face.

Gerard smiles. “Come in for a swim. You’ll feel better.” He shoots backward through the water, darkened spiny ridges flashing on his skin.

She almost wants to but imagines how painful it would be. “I can’t,” she says, then makes an excuse. “Work.”

“Of course. The monster.”

“I’ve never been a swimmer, anyway.” Even standing for too long in the shower makes her skin feel prickly and sore; she usually just soaps up before turning the water on and then washes her hair in the sink. “I think I’m allergic to water.”

He laughs. “Off you go, then. See you later –” His words bubble as he dives backward.

Elsa trudges out the gate, hardly even waving back at the friendly centaur trimming his hedges next door.

A New Review of FINIS.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a challenging week. Between intense home improvements and an intense workload at school and some intense upcoming deadlines for my novel revisions, I’m spread a little thin. But then today Misty Urban at Femmeliterate posted a thoughtful, intelligent, critical review of Finis. that pretty much refilled my emotional bank account back way up. You can read it here. And if you want to check out Finis. yourself, here’s the link to it on Amazon.

 

FINIS. Giveaway! (on Facebook…)

I wanted to do a Goodreads Giveaway of Finis. to celebrate the first week of autumn, but they require giveaways to be printed books, and Finis. is an ebook only at this time. So instead, I’m hosting my own giveaway on Facebook! Head on over to my Finis. page on FB for more details — and while you’re there, how about giving the page a Like?

Thank you to everyone for their support. I especially appreciate the reviews of Finis. and the feedback I’ve been getting from readers all over the social media landscape. Keep it coming, and please do spread the word!

Review of FINIS. by Marie Marshall

So if you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you might remember that last summer I wrote a review of Scotland-based Marie Marshall’s poetry collection Naked in the Sea. I’m a big fan of her work, and on her blog she often posts daily or near-daily short poems. Wonderful stuff, really great, and you should check it out.

So you can imagine my delight when she told me she was writing a review of Finis.! Today I woke up to see that review was posted; you can read it here at her blog.

Finis. is also showing up in more places now — on Goodreads, for example.

Have a good weekend!

Welcome to the Blog Tour

Well, it’s been quite a week around here! The social media blitz should die down for a while, now that Finis. is out and we’ve had the launch party. The festivities yesterday were really wonderful; thank you, profoundly, to everyone who came out to celebrate and who has already bought the book and who has left reviews. Such a delightful end to my summer break — because, yes, I went back to my classroom today. *le sigh*

So I’ve been invited to participate in a blog tour by the excellent Leah Lax. (Thanks, Leah!) Without further ado, here we go!

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1. What are you working on?
This summer I’ve finally been at a moment in my life — and hopefully this won’t be the last time I’m here — where I have that “writer’s trifecta” of a book about to come out, a book that’s in edits, and a book I’m writing (or in my case, rewriting). Though I love all these projects, I think for this interview I’ll focus on the book that has just come out, Finis. It’s set in a world where people are still quite human, but they also have distinct animal characteristics, called their Animal Affinities. They aren’t part animal, not really, nor do they traditionally have animal familiars, but they do evince certain qualities and tendencies that make them more than just human. For example, the protagonist’s mother and sister are giraffe-esque: they’re tall with golden skin and lots of big freckles. When they walk, they lope gracefully like distant ships on the ocean. Her cousin is like a seahorse, with his webbed fingers, prehensile feet, long nose, and spiky brown hair. Her problem? She doesn’t apparently have one of these Animal Affinities, and it’s causing terrible difficulties in her life. This is the story of her journey as she attempts to get out of that predicament.
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2. How does your work differ from other work in your genre?
Finis. is magic realism, and as is the nature of magic realism in general, it is generally unlike the stories around it.
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3. Why do you write what you do?
I write the kind of things I like to read, which means I don’t tend to stay in just one genre all the time. My specialties are magic realism, fantasy, and poetry. Often a situation or a problem or a piece of dialogue will get stuck in my head until my subconscious starts to wrap a story around it, secreting layers of metaphor and imagery and character. Sometimes what comes out is interesting enough to start editing into something more meaningful. But nearly always the story begins as a tiny obsession in my mind, and then I have to write it just to stop thinking about it.
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4. How does your writing process work?

Well, the school year is about to start, and I teach high school full-time, so my writing process is about to get a lot more desperate! I’ll borrow time here and there for a half an hour at a time during the week, and then on the weekend I’ll leave my house very early on Saturday morning to head out for a writing date with my friend and fellow novelist Sarah Warburton. We’ll sit at Panera for a few hours and get some work done. I also have a critique group that meets every few weeks, and having external deadlines on manuscripts that aren’t in the publishing process yet really helps me to get the pages in. I’ve found that external deadlines are absolutely necessary for me. I hate disappointing other people far more than I mind disappointing myself! I’ve also noticed that my writing process tends to change when I have a major shift in my routine; i.e., my habits during the summer are really different from my habits during the school year. And every time one of those routine shifts occurs, I try to revise the way I do things to always be more productive, more efficient. So we’ll see how things go this semester. One thing about having a schedule that’s always way too busy is that my writing time, when I do get it, becomes sharply focused. I no longer have time for writer’s block, and so I spend time thinking about what I’m going to write when I’m doing other things, like exercising, folding the laundry, trying to fall asleep — and then when I do finally get a chance to sit down and do it, I usually can. That makes my time in front of the journal or laptop more useful.

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Thanks again to Leah for initing me on this tour! If you’re interested in Finis., here are some links where you can buy it:

Amazon

Smashwords

Oyster Books

It’s also available in Apple’s iBooks store, and more venues are coming online each week. Check the Finis. Facebook page for updates.

 

Reviews for THE MILK OF FEMALE KINDNESS and Links to Buy FINIS.

By now you now that this week, my newest publication, Finis., launched. I’ve tried not to overwhelm the Interwebz with announcements of it, but I admit that Tuesday, Launch Day, I was online most of the day just trying to keep up with the traffic and buzz about it and reactions to it. It was a great day, and I’m so grateful to those of you who’ve already bought the book, read it, and given me reviews. I’m glad you’re enjoying it so far! (Links to places where Finis. is currently on sale appear at the end of this post.)

 

cover design by Lauren Volness
cover design by Lauren Volness

 

This Sunday is our official launch party, and if you’re in Houston that day, please feel free to drop by! It will be at The Black Labrador from 4:00-6:00 p.m. in their Churchill Room.

Finis. is an ebook only at this time, due to its length, but there will be copies of an anthology I was recently published in, The Milk of Female Kindness — An Anthology of Honest Motherhood, for sale at the launch party. This wonderful international project brought together authors from all over the world; the book contains poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and artwork around the theme of motherhood and offers a wide variety of perspectives. (It also contains two of my essays and three of my poems.)

 

The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood

 

Here is a list of some of the reviews that have come in so far for The Milk of Female Kindness. (I wrote “some” because I know there are other reviews out there that I don’t have listed here.)

*  from blog The Reluctant Retiree

*  from blogger Carol Cameleon

*  from blogger Madhusmita Phukon

*  from Michelle Clements James at Book Chat

*  from Sharon Bonin-Pratt at Ink Flare

*  from Dale Newton at EllaDee Words

*  from blog My Train of Thoughts On…

*  several on Goodreads

I was so grateful to be included in this anthology; it really is an excellent publication. Kudos to Kasia James, the contributing editor whose brainchild it was, and to all the other authors and artists in it!

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As promised, here are links to buy Finis. More retailers will be coming available soon, and when they are, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Smashwords

Amazon (This link is for the US store, but it is also available through Amazon in India, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Australia.)

Finis. is also available through Apple’s iBooks store, but be sure you get the title that has my name attached to it, or you might end up with some very different literature you weren’t necessarily looking for!