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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

I posted this review about Linton Robinson’s book, Sweet Spot, several years ago, but with all the political upheaval recently, this particular book keeps coming to mind. I loved it then and love it still.

Mazatlan Confidential Sweet Spot, Linton Robinson

Linton Robinson’s  novel of corrupt politicians, Mazatlan Carnival and baseball has all the credentials for a block-busting read: gritty, graphic and gripping. This is a fortuitous find among the many thousands of titles that are published every year and well-worth the effort. Fans of Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler and Tennessee Williams will discover resonances with Robinson’s main character, Raymundo Carrasco – retired, short-haul, major league star turned investigative journalist and local government flunky.

The depth of this novel is astonishing and the skill with which Robinson interweaves his dramatic motifs is a lesson in craft for any writer. Robinson’s command of his metaphors is masterful. The background information needed to create the depth of this story is fed through Carrasco’s columns and his insights about his native city and fellow citizens. If you thought you knew something about Mexico, this book will set you straight.

Carrasco has returned to his native Mazatlan after a few seasons over the border where he held his batting average steady – good enough for the Majors. Despite his success, he hasn’t found that “sweet spot” in his life. Although it seems a foolish choice, with the murders and mayhem of all the vultures surrounding him, he seeks that moment working for the mayor’s office press team. Just when his life can’t get worse, it does, spiraling into gruesome hilarity and poetic decadence.

Despite the relentless brutality, this novel is a glorious celebration of humanity in all its joyful exuberance and soul-destroying routine.

Sweet Spot is a novel I can recommend. It is thoughtful, intense and violent. It is also hilarious and beautiful in its compassion for all we poor/pure souls seeking that moment of absolute perfection.

While I read this, word for unrelenting word, I realized that the United States’ most intimate foreign relationship is mutually dependent and as destructive as Mundo’s love affair with Mijares.

 

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The following are entries I began in a journal (handwritten in pencil) when my youngest was approaching 3 years of age. All the entries are in the ‘bane’ aspect but one has to wonder where the ‘pleasure’ comes from such as this?

March 28

I do really want to be writing again but am having trouble settling down. Probably for several reasons – the most solid being that there are builders outside and plumbers inside – the least physical but most important being that I have always had trouble getting started but it has been a very long time now since I did any creative work at all besides articles so it is almost a new experience but I cannot get stories and ideas out of my head. (Mr. Lombardi, I apologize for this run-on sentence – call it stream of consciousness, or just bad grammar!)

March 29

I think this book is my preliminary warm-up for writing. Maybe by using this or letters, I won’t waste a lot of time and paper writing what won’t be of any use — sort of getting junk out of my system before tackling anything else. Yesterday, I wrote about 500 words, maybe less, while I had the chance. Today I am alone for more than an hour but already part of that hour is gone.

April 28

LM told me today that my story needed work. She didn’t understand what I was trying to do and asked HC to write to me with corrections and suggestions. There is always the nagging fear that I really am not good enough to make a success of writing.  LM and RR have received several manuscripts from writers who have been published in magazines. I believe I am as good though my stories are rejected. I don’t know. Should I even be trying?

I am low about LM’s response. I thought when she first mentioned wanting to talk after the meeting that I detected a note of enthusiasm for the story, but I was wrong. Maybe potential but not success.

AL was going to publish the story when I sent it to her but she couldn’t find space in her monthly magazine so it got lost.

Now that I’ve come back to writing after so long, these small setbacks seem major. Maybe I’m out of practice. And maybe I’m just not good enough.

I’m trying to get back into reading well. I’ve started with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I mean reading literature instead of Martin Luther King and women’s diaries and Spanish textbooks and Ngaio Marsh. If I read better, I might write better.

Please, please, please don’t let me be not good enough. I’ve had enough of that all my life. Mediocre, not wanted, unsuitable, can do better.

Well, I was younger then than now! Stay tuned for Bane III

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My friend, Jeff, (you can find him at FourFoxesOneHound) has set the benchmark for support to his colleagues and I want to do the same for mine:

All this month and through the Festive season, I will be featuring your books on my blog. All you have to do is leave a comment on either the latest post or on any of the subjects that interest you.

Once you have done that, send me the following information off loop to my email address: lvr49 (at) ymail (dot) com

Your Name  or Pen Name
“Title of your Book”
{# in Series if appropriate}
{Genre & heat level}
{Publisher}
{Price}
{buy-link for this title}
{your website}
{50 words about this book/ebook/audiobook/etc}

One book per author and I’ll begin this as soon as I have a book from you to promote.

All the very best,

Leigh
Wait a Lonely Lifetime, Avalon Books, April 2012

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Is there any activity more iconic to the warm weather than picking up a book and losing yourself in another world? Probably, but I’ve had the extraordinary pleasure of actually 1) finding the time and 2) discovering books that warranted the commitment of precious hours. On a day when the sun hasn’t found any break in the clouds and the streets are slick with dust-encrusted drizzle, the opportunity to reflect on other writers’ efforts is pleasant indeed. You’ll see from this shortlist that my tastes are eclectic in the extreme.

Book cover image Into the CrossfireMy first up for July is a book I really did happen upon and it ended up with me on the long haul journey back to Wales from the RWA National Conference in New York. Into the Crossfire by Lisa Marie Rice, an Avon Red book, tested my commitment to Open Carry Romance. (In case you’re not familiar with OCR, this campaign grew out of years of denigration of romance writers, readers and the genre itself.) Into the Crossfire has a much less ‘red’ cover than many of the Avon imprints but the nudity on the deep blue cover is unmistakable.

So is the flaming sexuality. One of the aspects of this erotic novel I truly appreciated with the use of anatomically correct nouns for parts of the body. No slang, not many four letter words but good, Latin-based five and six letters for most parts. The story is compelling too, though somewhat far-fetched and a trifle on the ‘no guy is that angelic’ but all the same, when you’re swept away 35,000 feet in the air and of all the Hollywood First Releases and Top-Rated films on offer, there isn’t one you’d want to watch rather than read this book, I give it my 5Jets rating.

And for something completely different, Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar was given to me by a family member after I had met the author in Connecticut.  This inspirational romance is enchanting and enthralling. From Moody Publishers, a house that concentrates on Christian theologically based fiction and non-fiction, Afshar’s book takes you to the walls of Jericho and the life of a zonah – a young womanBook cover image Pearl in the Sand by the name of Rahab who was sold into prostitution by her father to save her family from starvation. The book follows Rahab’s rehabilitation to self-worth and love with a deep understanding of the aches of the human heart. Her journey from the abject hell of her empty life to the full heart of a woman of faith is finely crafted. Afshar’s knowledge of Biblical times is impressive. So is her concept of forgiveness and the state of grace.

Rahab’s Israelite husband, Salmone, has his own tortuous journey to understanding. This makes for a heart-wrenching and unpredictable course of events, not the least of which are the scenes of battle and injury. I became so engrossed in this story that I found myself, on more than one occasion, having to walk a long way home after missing my bus stop after a long day at work. Therefore, I give this my 5Buses rating.  When all you want to do is get home and you miss your stop because of a book, that’s a good story in my estimation.

My final book for this early part of the summer season is The Last Outlaw, published by my own publisher, Avalon Books, and written by Stone Wallace, a Canadian gentleman I have come to call a friend after spending many hours in email correspondence with him when I interviewed this writer of westerns who is on speaking-terms with Johnny Depp. Cash McCall is on a collision course with the law when, after Book cover image The Last Outlawhis release from prison, law-abiding citizens won’t give him a break.

There’s no forgiveness in the hearts of the good folks of Wyatt City, Wyoming. Cash’s younger brother follows in his footsteps and to keep his brother out of more trouble and pay his mother’s hospital bills, Cash puts aside his resolution to go straight.

Wallace put this book in the realm of the ‘noir’ – the downward, unrelenting spiral of errors of judgment piled upon injustice stacked up on the misfortunes of birth and nurture. This book rates a 5Suns for blazing new trails in a much-loved genre. Other books by Wallace are Montana Dawn and Denim Ryder, both with high-ranking accolades to recommend them.

So, no matter what your reading preference, these three books make for good August entertainment. All are available from their publishers, bookshops*or major online retailers. I’m moving on to a cozy small town yarnfest, a steamy archaeologist and well, whatever else turns up.

*Avalon Books are available in Public Libraries or by order through bookshops, as well as a well-known, international online retailer.

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While at the RWA National Conference in New York at the end of June, I attended a media training workshop. The workshop concentrated on  preparing yourself for interviews – particularly hostile interviews. The questions running through my head were: “Why do we have to defend our writing like this? Why is Romance under constant attack?” I have my own theories and have written about those in a previous post.

However, here is one heartening item broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this morning. Keith Oatley has just published Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction. My attention was caught by the comments Oatley made about the way in which fiction informs and socializes readers. He claims that people who read fiction are better equipped for social interaction than those who read only non-fiction. The most striking of these was (and I paraphrase his words): Readers of fiction are better prepared for sexual and interpersonal encounters.

With all the trash thrown at romance fiction about its detrimental effects on readers, this particular claim puts to rest any arguments along those lines. Romance provides a safe environment for readers of both sexes to learn about relationships. Regardless of the heat level, most romantic novels these days present characters who are people with difficulties and needs they overcome during the course of the story. A reader can experience problems vicariously and relate these to their own lives.

Even if the novel is far-fetched and fantastic, the positive atmosphere, at the very least, takes the reader away from their day to day difficulties with no damage to their sense of reality.  I know from my own reading of Gone with the Wind – presented to me when I was 14 and my mother deemed I had come of age –  the introduction to the complicated workings of the human heart prepared me for more than just meeting my own Rhett Butler. Romance novels are always so much more than a “love” story.

They are also lessons in survival, determination, justice, ethics, morality, emotional intelligence as well as providing learning experiences about other countries, customs, periods of history and walks of life in a form that is also entertaining and fulfilling. In my first book for Avalon Books, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, Sylviana wrestles with self-doubt and low self-esteem to find the love of her life. Her battle with herself matches Eric’s insecurities. Their struggles against their worst enemies forms the foundation of my story. These emotions are never far away from any human relationship.

A reviewer of Such Stuff as Dreams comments:  ” Many people have noted that men can be much more comfortable with a solid biography ( or instruction manual) than they are with the fictional world which is found in a novel, and this book is concerned with exploring this terrain.” This is certainly my own personal experience. Give a man a history book or political analysis and he’s away. Present him with fiction and you get a shrug. Starquester goes on to say: Such Stuff as Dreams …” is deft in its establishment of the links between social skills/empathy and the consumption of fiction, and as such is a valuable companion piece to works such as The Essential Differences by Simon Baron Cohen.”

As I’ve questioned before, can any other genre claim to develop social skills in the way that romance fiction does? As by far the most popular genre of all, romance writers can celebrate their positive influence on generation after generation of readers.  Why else do mothers pass on their most treasured books to their daughters as they come of age?

After the media training workshop, I announced to my colleagues that I won’t be hiding anymore. I’m out of the closet. I not only read romance, I write romance. Can anything be better than writing about people falling in love and making a go of a relationship against all the odds, as well as providing solid training material and entertainment for all readers?

Oatley’s book will be on my shelf from this day on.

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