A WFW Book Review: My Very Best Friend by Cathy Lamb

cathy lamb mvbfToday is the book birthday for Cathy Lamb’s latest novel MY VERY BEST FRIEND. It’s Cathy’s ninth book, and had me turning the pages late into the night. And if you know me, that’s no small feat. I’m an early-to-bed kinda gal.

Sometimes I have an idea what a book is about before I start reading, sometimes not. Even when I do, my expectations of story seem to vanish on page one as I allow the author to do his or her (oh, who are we kidding, usually HER) job.

That’s definitely the case with MY VERY BEST FRIEND.

I was whisked away to the Oregon and the life of Charlotte Mackintosh, a romance writer who has no romance in her life. She’s an odd duck, to say the least, which made her completely endearing. Charlotte is also generous and kind and while she hadn’t traveled in years, she sets off to Scotland to sell her parents’ old cottage, where she lived until she was about twelve. The story takes us then to Scotland–and that’s where the whirlwind begins!

Cathy is a master at pacing. I sometimes felt like I couldn’t keep up with how fast I wanted to read. I’m not sure that makes sense but so much is happening I wanted to take it all in. There’s friendship, heartache, mystery, romance, and some real growth by Charlotte, and all the other characters, by the end of the book.

I read a review somewhere (I am sorry not to attribute its author, but I am not searching for one line in one review!) that said something like the reader learned something new on every page.

SHE LEARNED SOMETHING NEW ON EVERY PAGE.

And there you have it, folks. Always share something new with your reader. What the characters are doing, saying, wanting, needing. Who they’re being, where they’re going, how they’re failing or succeeding.

I’ve read stacks of writing books and interpreted them in a way that benefits my own writing and in ways I believe I’ve helped others. I’ve taken scores of workshops, gotten pages of feedback, and analyzed my own work and others. But this is one of the most helpful thing I’ve ever read. Take it straight to your writer’s heart and leave it there. And read MY VERY BEST FRIEND to see how it’s done.

I think MY VERY BEST FRIEND is, indeed, a prime example of keeping a reader on the edge of her seat in a book that’s not a thriller. It’s women’s fiction with a generous dollop of romance. It’s happy, it’s sad (oh so very), it’s funny, it’s complex (but easy to follow), and it’s also whimsical. I picked up this book when I had time to read and when I should have been doing other things.

What can I say, my friends? Cathy Lamb has done it again.

Amy xo

Lots of ways to buy MY VERY BEST FRIEND right—> here.

Curiosity Might Just Kill The Author

 

If you’re a writer putting your work out there for others to read, at some point you’ll hear the advice: Do not read your reviews. Oh, you’ll do it anyway, at least for a while, but those bad reviews can sting. Well, at least when they’re coherent they can.

Bad reviews also sting because writers have feelings. (This seems to be a missing cog in some reviewers’ wheels.)

If we didn’t have feelings, we wouldn’t be able to write anything worth reading. We internalize what we read and what we see. That’s how we have enough mishegas—craziness—in our heads to need to GET IT OUT onto paper. For others to read. And review. Apparently so that we have more to internalize. Because we internalize what we read. (See a pattern emerging?)

And that’s what brings me to this next bit of advice that no one ever shared with me. I’m giving you this to your straight to save you all some heartache and to save you a trip to the reflecting pond. Because you know we all go there anyway. No need for extra travel.

Do not read the long bios of other authors.

I did this so you don’t have to.

Have a great time reading the short snappy ones on the back of the book, but back away from the long ones. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones tucked away or maybe even highlighted online that outline a lifetimes of degrees, travels, accomplishments, and diseases cured. Or the ones that detail the scuba diving prowess, the years digging wells in underprivileged countries, the Fortune 500 job ditched when a novel written on weekends hit it big.

Until I fell down the online rabbit hole of author bios, I’d really considered writing the great equalizer of my life. You write, I write, we have something in common. That’s all we need. Writing is an intense gig, writers can talk about a paragraph for hours.

But, for some reason, these compacted lives just toppled me. Had fact that I’d not done any of those important things tipped the scales in someone else’s favor? What else had I missed out on? I didn’t have time replant forests and living in a hut or in Dubai was not an option. I started raising kids in 1992. But some of these authors have also raised children (although my daughter assures me there is no way these people have friends).

I insisted to myself I am the only published author in the universe without a master’s degree in something. Had everyone been required to join the peace corp or save dolphins or spearhead urban gardening initiatives? And why didn’t I get the memo?

In those few moments of hazed uncertainty I was sure that while I was following my ex around the country while he followed his dream everyone else was intentionally padding their future curricula vitae for a website they didn’t even know would exist—when it never even occurred to me to do anything but what I was doing simply for the sake of doing it.

Where was everyone else who did nothing?*

While some of my everyday and everything friends are writers, I don’t know too much about most of my writer friends other than their writing, and the tidbits they share on social media. Cute kids and sports. Cute kids and school. Cute kids and awards. Inspirational quote. Pedicures (which I hate). Vacations. Food.

Is it better that way? Keep Writerland Clean? Is that our motto? Writerland is the place I belong. With a few exceptions, it’s my favorite place.

When I took a breath and a step back (which required assistance), I realized that none of the things I read about on any of these bios are things I wished I had done. Ever. Not one. None of them interested me, they just impressed me. And there’s a difference.

Your path, my path, his path, her path. It doesn’t matter how we differ as writers, what matters is what makes us the same. That’s the secret sauce for the writing life. That it is a great equalizer. (So go! Climb your mountain! Sail your seas! I’ll be right here when you get back!) And all that good stuff is exactly what I remembered after letting off some of my under-achieving steam with the help of a wonderful writer friend. One with a Ph.D.

But we didn’t talk about that.

Amy xo

* I am fully aware I did not spend my life doing nothing. I am proud of the kids I raised, the person I am, the things I’ve done. But now I have to go dig a well in my backyard for underprivileged suburban bunnies. Cya. 

I Write Novels For Women. Now, Please. Put On Your Lipstick And GET OVER IT.

As you might surmise from the title of this blog, and because many of you know me by now, I embrace the term women’s fiction. I understand that agents and editors need an idea of what they might be getting from an author, that everyone specializes nowadays, that there are categories and bookshelves (wooden, plastic, virtual) and there needs to be some kind of system, albeit flawed.

But I also don’t mind the label because I WRITE MY BOOKS FOR WOMEN.

Yes, there were men who read The Glass Wives. I think there were six or eight of them (okay, maybe five) and only one or two were related to me. This didn’t bother me at all. Not a smidgen.

I write my books to tell myself a story I don’t yet know, but that I want to know. As the process continues I begin to think about readers, what readers need to engage with my story and make it their own. Those readers I think of are always women. My main characters are women and they’re interacting, mostly, with and because of, other women.

See how that works?

I like my feminine book covers. The only thing I ever said about book covers to my editor was that I felt strongly that my covers represented the tone of what was inside the book. And they do.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is part of this women-in-publishing uproar I understand and support.

Fact: There is no “men’s fiction” label or category, and books by men about families or relationships are filed under domestic dramas, literary, or general fiction, even if the main character is a woman. That’s wrong, and many are working to change that. Some are working to make sure it doesn’t change.

Fact: Fewer books by women are reviewed, awarded, and recognized by the industry. That’s wrong too. Especially–or perhaps only–when the books written by women really ARE gender neutral and could have mass appeal if not marketed specifically to women.

The problem, as I see it, isn’t writing for women and being proud to do so without reservation and WITH great book covers, the problem is when it is assumed that all books written by women are for women only.

That’s the issue.

It’s okay if you’re a woman and your books appeal to the general public. So it has to be ok if you’re a woman and your books are meant to appeal to women.

There are many people/Tweeters/FBers/writers who explode at the thought of a feminine book cover or women’s fiction label. It’s wrong, they type in all CAPS and BOLD. DON’T FEMININE BOOK COVERS MAKE YOU MAD? WHAT ABOUT PRETTY AUTHOR PHOTOS? AARGH! BOO! HISS!

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to look like a dude in my author photo.

It might be wrong for some, but lipstick and good lighting are right for me.

P1020826 - Version 2

I want to write books about women that appeal to women. I’m not doing this by accident. It’s intentional as much as it’s organic. Those are the stories of my heart, and those are the only ones I can write. Those are the only ones that keep me up at night, keep me revising a paragraph until my words say precisely what I mean for them to say in precisely the way I mean them to. And with the right cadence. I did it just this morning with the last paragraph of my next novel (not done yet, but when the last paragraph presents itself, you write it).

So while I might resent the fact that women’s fiction gets eye-rolls and shrugs and some people (women) I know say they don’t read “those kinds” of books (what? about PEOPLE?). I say, too bad. Or at least I say it in my head. And I move on.

Not only do you need a thick skin in this business, but a resilient heart.

What I don’t want is to be pigeon-holed, especially by other women, into believing that my stories for women are wrong, that I shouldn’t be writing with only women in mind.

Because that’s wrong too.

When and if I write a book that I believe appeals to a non-gender specific reading public, I’ll jump the fence—right over—while holding my skirt high in the air, so I don’t fall on my face and smear my lipstick.

Until then, I’m over it.

You should be too.

DON’T MISS OUT!

THE GOOD NEIGHBOR ARC GIVEAWAY!

(YES, MEN CAN ENTER TOO!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s Book Giveaway Time! One ARC of THE GOOD NEIGHBOR is up for grabs!

In honor of a long-awaited, family weekend with both of my kids and my parents (something that hasn’t happened in about a year and a half) I’m giving away ONE of my precious ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) of THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, which officially lands on readers’ doorsteps on October 13, 2015!

ARC TGN

This way I know I can keep you all busy entering and tweeting! I don’t want you getting into any trouble while I’m gone. ;-)

The only thing you have to do is tell me in the comments about your favorite neighbor growing up. (The rest of the entry options are not mandatory.)

When you read THE GOOD NEIGHBOR you’ll meet Izzy Lane, who moves back to her childhood home with her five-year-old son, and right next door to Mrs. Feldman, the woman who has been her surrogate grandmother as long as she can remember. The tables turn a bit as Izzy begins to see she can help Mrs. Feldman as a thanks for all the help she’s given Izzy her whole life.

I wrote this book for many reasons (more blog posts on those as pub day nears) but one was to pay homage to the Northeast Philadelphia street I lived on for 19 years — from the age of 5 until I married and moved away at 26. I didn’t want to write a book set in the 1970s (too much research for me, bowing down to my histfic writing pals) but I did want Izzy to have the same kind of memories I had, the same kind of affection for her city street and neighborhood. And she does.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and I am a proud product of one of them. Many neighbors fill my memories, and I’m not silly enough to name a favorite when they all hold a special place in my heart. I’ll write more about my real neighborhood (not Izzy’s, as that is a reimagined cluster of many neighborhoods I know) another time!

Have fun with the giveaway and good luck!

Amy xo

Click here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guest Post: Novelist Laura Nicole Diamond And The Beauty Of The Writing Community

Shelter Us cover, Kline blurbShe had me at community. And those of you who know me know that’s what this blog, and every writing group (in real life and online), each string of emails between myself and another writer, every long writer lunch, phone call, or nod, hearkens back to. No one understand the writer community—especially of women (roll your eyes if you must, but it’s true)—like we do. No one understands until she’s in it. And then you wonder where these people, who understand and make you feel sane, have been all your life. 

I feel so lucky to be part of a myriad of writer communities, and WFW is at the top. After all, I created this blog, this place, because I couldn’t find what I was looking for, the information and inspiration and authors, anywhere else.

Today, the lovely Laura Nicole Diamond joins us to share her own story of experiencing community in writing and publishing. Please welcome Laura to WFW, and add your thoughts in the comments!

Amy xo

Continue reading

The Glass Wives, A Discount, and A Teaser

It’s been almost two years (May 14th, 2013) since THE GLASS WIVES hit bookshelves. That was, and remains, quite a journey. And now as we move toward the release of THE GOOD NEIGHBOR on October 13th, look who’s poking up her pretty little head and saying DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME, MA! (Notice how St. Martin’s Press used the same font on the cover of both of my novels? That’s a little bit of branding, folks!)

And now, THE GLASS WIVES ebook is $5.99!

Glass Wives_final cover

If you haven’t read it, now’s a great time. I mean, look at the blue sky. It totally says IT’S SPRING SO READ ME. DRINK TEA AND READ ME. SPIKE YOUR TEA IF YOU WANT, BUT READ ME.

You can also gift ebooks and $5.99 is the right price. JUST IN TIME FOR MOTHER’S DAY!

Here’s a Kindle link: KINDLE LINK FOR THE GLASS WIVES

Here’s a Nook link: NOOK LINK FOR THE GLASS WIVES

More soon on THE GOOD NEIGHBOR and maybe more news soon on other things too. Oh my, what might that mean???

Amy xo 

Don’t have the 4-1-1 on THE GLASS WIVES or need a refresher?

Here’s the review that was featured in Shelf Awareness for Readers on May 28th, 2013.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 3.40.40 PM

About Face—What I See (And What I Don’t See) When I Write

girl in nature

I have no clue what my characters look like.

Okay, not 100% true. Just almost. I have no idea what their whole faces look like.

I do not clip pictures from magazines and glue stick them into a scrapbook, or have a Pinterest board filled with head shots. I don’t picture old neighbors or cousins or superstars when I write. I see beings, an aura, a movement.  It’s as if the characters are traveling to fast for me to get a good look, or maybe I’m just so polite that I don’t want to stop them to stare. Even in a serious and intense scene, I don’t see faces.

Kinda creepy, now that I think of it.

I can glimpse the hair and see it messy or or coiffed. I know the color and style. I’m familiar with the character’s gait, shoulder width,and height. I certainly know if there’s a bump on a nose or a cleft in the chin. I define fashion sense. And sometimes I know eye color.

But I still don’t see faces.

When asked who would play my characters in a movie, I freeze. I don’t see my “people” on a screen, I see them on a page. Not that I’d reject a movie deal should Hollywood come to call, but I’d be more likely to say who I think could “pull off” the character rather than who looks like her.

When you meet Izzy Lane (for which I cannot wait!!) my main character in The Good Neighbor, you’ll know early on that her hair is short because her ex-husband always liked it long. I wrote Izzy tall (five-foot-nine) because that’s how I pictured her, with a gracefulness that I envision comes with long limbs. I don’t think I ever described the face of Izzy’s next-door-neighbor, Mrs. Feldman. She’s eighty-five. She’s spry. She speaks her mind. And she is also scared of a long-held secret. So, picture her as you want her to look. Like your favorite teacher, a grandmother, aunt or friend. Or leave her face peacefully blank, or always turned slightly away, filled in by story and emotion, not features.

In my work-in-progress, there’s a twelve-year-old girl. She is gangly in the way you know will turn into gracefulness in a few years, maybe more. She has long red hair and a tentative smile. I watched and recorded several cooking shows that featured kids, because I don’t have any twelve-year-old girls in my life and there were a few on the shows. One had just the right smile. Another was a little too grown up, but that was good to see. Another seemed a little too young. I noticed unplucked eyebrows and braces. Whimsy. Big smiles. Bigger tears. Those are the elements of a character to me, much more so than a portrait.

I write for myself, but my novels are published for my readers. I trust them to take good care of the characters, to allow the people on the page to be who the readers need them to be for that story—to look the part and be perfect for that reader only.

Do you picture faces when you read? Famous faces or everyday faces?  If you’re a writer, who do you see when you write your own stories?