Weekend Agenda & Bookish Mischief

me-iiThis week has been really interesting and I’ve had lots of great on-line conversations with like-minded book bloggers and authors. That is a big part of the many wonderful things about being plugged in to the book world. Not only do you get to meet wonderful, talented and extraordinary people, you learn and grow so much from them. Also, there is the fact you get to talk about books all day long and what can be more glorious than that?! *Cough* Yes I know…I’m not forgetting reading lots and lots of books!

With that in mind, I have a few bookish things to share with you before I talk about what I will be doing this weekend. This year I regretfully admit my reading and reviewing hasn’t been on point like it usually is. Though I am bound and determined to make up for that. When, you ask? Err…in the near future, I hope. Lately though I have been getting into audio books, if you remember. There is just the matter of finishing them!

what-she-knewNow that I’ve gotten that out of the way…let’s talk weekend plans! This weekend I am hoping to finish listening to at least one of those audio books (not holding my breath) and I want to start reading, Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. This year I had planned to get through many of my unread books on my bookshelves at home. Let me tell you, there are a lot and that doesn’t include what’s on my Kindle. I know I should be reading to write reviews but…. this weekend I am solely reading for myself. That is all there is to it.

winter-peopleI do have a couple of projects to start working on. I need to begin drafting a few blog posts for Layered Pages and indieBRAG. The week of the 20th I will be mostly off-line and I want to be sure things are in somewhat order while I’m gone. I’m also hoping to do a little pre-spring cleaning and straighten up a couple of bookshelves. They need it bad.

I want to wish you all a lovely weekend and be sure to take time to enjoy a book! There is nothing like getting lost in a good story. Be sure to check out a few of my favorite book bloggers below. They are great people and dedicated to their craft! Happy reading!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

A few Book Blogs to follow: (In no particular order)

Rather Too Fond of Books

Essays & reviews

A Bookaholic Swede

Just One More Chapter

A Literary Vacation

Flashlight Commentary

A Bookish Affair

Celticlady’s Reviews

Of Quills & Vellim -Author/Book Blogger

The Maiden’s Court

Let Then Read Books

2 Kids and Tired Books

Cover Crush: The Book Store by Deborah Meyler

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

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the-bookstoreThe Bookstore

Pub Date: August 20, 2013

A witty, sharply observed debut novel about a young woman who finds unexpected salvation while working in a quirky used bookstore in Manhattan.

Brilliant, idealistic Esme Garland moves to Manhattan armed with a pres­tigious scholarship at Columbia University. When Mitchell van Leuven— a New Yorker with the bluest of blue New York blood—captures her heart with his stunning good looks and a penchant for all things erotic, life seems truly glorious . . . until a thin blue line signals a wrinkle in Esme’s tidy plan. Before she has a chance to tell Mitchell about her pregnancy, he suddenly declares their sex life is as exciting as a cup of tea, and ends it all.

Determined to master everything from Degas to diapers, Esme starts work at a small West Side bookstore, finding solace in George, the laconic owner addicted to spirulina, and Luke, the taciturn, guitar-playing night manager. The oddball customers are a welcome relief from Columbia’s high-pressure halls, but the store is struggling to survive in this city where nothing seems to last.

Note: Reviews are mixed on this one….

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Hands down, readers are going to love book covers with the title, The Bookstore and with books displayed. I am digging everything about this cover. The colorful books and how they are presented by the person holding them. The dark flowery dress of the lady for contrast gives it a great stand out. This is an eye catcher! Kudos to the design team.

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More Great Cover Crushes!

 Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

 Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-Coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede-Coming soon

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books-Coming soon

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation-Coming soon

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

A Reader’s Voice Out Loud

me-iiOne of the greatest passions I have working with Geri Clouston-president of indieBRAG-is to give authors the tools and insight on how to reach their readership in the most creative ways. The market has changed in the last decade or so and the scope of promoting has widen. This has given us lots of thought into finding new ways to show authors how to draw in more readers on their journey of self-discovery as a story-teller. Not only that but along this journey authors may learn more about their craft in ways they couldn’t imagine.

Another important aspect for an author to grow as a writer and to continue the path of reaching out to people, is to hear what their readers have to say. Geri has created a new interview series for our readers to express how they feel authors present themselves on social media.

On March 13th at indieBRAG, I will take part in this series and share my own thoughts as a reader. If you are a reader for indieBRAG, we would be honored for you to participate in this new project. Be sure to contact Geri Clouston via email. -Thank you.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

indieBRAG Blog Link HERE

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Male Protagonist Rhys Griffin

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Meghan Holloway is currently working on a story about a WWI veteran and on a desperate search for his son in war-torn France in 1944. His name is Rhys Griffin and Meghan is here today to tell us a little about him. I don’t know about you, but I am delighted to meet him and look forward t0 reading more about his story when it comes out! Please help me welcome, Meghan.

Meghan, who is Rhys Griffin?

Rhys is a veteran of the Great War. He is a son, a widower, a father, and he followed in the footsteps of the men of his family and took over the Griffin sheep farm when his father died. He is a simple man of quiet depth, more at home in the hills in Wales than in the streets of Paris in the wake of the liberation in 1944, when my story begins. He is down to earth, calm and stalwart, not prone to temper or to effusive emotions. He is really a man of his time, and in my story, he is a man on a desperate journey.

 What are his strengths?

He is a man of great perseverance. This is a man who survived the horrors of the Somme and who spends his days toiling as a sheep farmer. He doesn’t let difficulty or exhaustion or physical pain stop him when he sets his mind to something. Once he decides to do something, he is tireless in that pursuit.

His faults?

Rhys is stubborn, and he is not very tolerant of those whose opinions differ from his. I wouldn’t say it’s a fault, but an important aspect of his character is that he is not a man who believes in forgiveness. He is searching for his estranged son not to ask his forgiveness–he still thinks what his son did was wrong–but to recapture the bond they once had and to heal the chasm between them.

What is your personal opinion of him?

Rhys Griffin is a character I greatly admire. He is masculine without having to say so, strong without having to prove it. He is a man with whom you could traipse silently and comfortably through the heathered hills. I appreciate his traditional ideals and his staunch perseverance in life. He is absolutely my favorite character I’ve written.

About Maghan Holloway

“My dearest darling …” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.

I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, finished my graduate work in an all-girls school in the blustery north, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Appalachians, writing my third and fourth novels, and hanging out with my standard poodle.

Meghan’s Website

Interview with Lou Aguilar

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I have the great pleasure in interviewing Lou Aguilar today! He is the author of Jake for Mayor.

Welcome to Layered Pages, Lou! Tell me a little about yourself and how you got started in writing.

Almost everyone who adores books has at some point thought about writing one. Most realize they’re better at enjoying literature than creating it. A very few have the discipline and talent to go the distance. By age 12, I knew I had the latter, which could lead to the former. Being the son of a renowned scholar certainly helped. I read very few children’s or young adult books (although a lot of comic books), instead devouring Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, the Three Musketeers, Greek mythology and ancient history. My first short stories featured an Ancient Roman secret agent foiling plots against Augustus Caesar. These underwhelming tales are thankfully lost forever, but the habit they engendered, and my desire to excel at it, remain.

Are there any boundaries you have pushed as a writer?

I find the current outpour of dark, edgy, morally ambiguous storytelling to be monumentally boring and, worse, artificial. Even masters of the form like Thomas Harris seem to have run out of tricks, judging by the last dud in his two-thirds brilliant Hannibal Lector trilogy. Three years ago, I realized that pleasant, uplifting fare with clear-cut male heroes and, gasp, femininely real women is as radical today as Vonnegut, Heller and Kesey were to the safe literature of their day. This was the countercultural direction I chose to take, starting with a screenplay about an anti-Christian legal case, and then my first novel, Jake for Mayor. Of course once you go this route, progressively correct censorship becomes an obstacle, more in screenwriting than fiction, yet notably there as well.

What is your writing process?

Raymond Chandler advised at least four straight hours a day for the professional writer. I’m not sure if any of my books will ever equal The Big Sleep, but one should emulate the best (minus the heavy drinking). I get exercise out of the way early, so that the need for it doesn’t haunt me when I’m writing, followed by a good breakfast. The subsequent cup of coffee accompanies my revision of the previous days’ work, while I make improvements. Then I start the new stuff. Before attacking the novel, I have written an outline of the plot in present tense (what Hollywood types call a “treatment”). I’ll naturally diverge from this as the scenes and characters take on a life of their own.

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How has writing impacted your life?

Becoming an appreciated author has given me the sense of fulfillment I’d sought since childhood. The verification that all my years of reading and philosophizing, and personal sacrificing, were not a solitary ego trip but the formation of an artist whose work gives readers pleasure and even intellectual stimulation. It has also introduced me to a wonderful new orbit of bright and beautiful book people. The only cost has been the absence of what I’d hoped to have by now – a family and financial security – but my life’s scale is now more balanced, and I can still make up for lost time.

What advice would you give a beginner writer?

A variation of my last answer. Know that by following your passion you’re deviating from the standard path to success. If you’re not good enough at this extraordinary craft, you’ll find out soon enough, and hopefully get back on a normal track. But even if you’re great, there’s no guarantee of success. You may instantly hit one out of the park, like my friend J Ryan Stradl with his New York Times bestseller first novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, or you may wallow for years in a bleak subsistence that makes even continuing to write difficult. You must stack the odds in your favor by blueprinting great literature of the genre you intend to enter. You don’t have to imitate it, only understand what makes it click while you find your own style.

Tell me about your story, Jake for Mayor.

It’s a Mark Twainish tale about a sophisticated political elitist with no sympathy for middle America (any resemblance to a recently defeated presidential candidate is not quite coincidental) who becomes entrapped by it then gradually enchanted. His guide from one viewpoint to the other is a delightful dog, whom he initially uses for his advantage, and pays the price for it before his ultimate redemption. The book is satiric, wholesome and short. It’s inspired by the true story of tiny Erie, Colorado, where a dog actually ran for mayor and got votes. I heard it when I was living in Venice Beach as a produced screenwriter. A stunning young woman came up to me and said she was from Erie, a writer herself, and would Disney be interested in a script about the recent mayoral race there. Looking her over, I of course said yes, and that we’d have to work closely on it at all hours. We wrote the treatment, then I wrote the script, which became one of the most popular unsold screenplays in Hollywood. I’m glad it wasn’t bought because it enabled me to elevate a cute tale into my notable first novel.

I am really big on character development. What are the habits of your protagonists?

At the beginning of the story, with everything going swimmingly for him, Ken Miller is a slick, cocky, superficial political operator to whom everything has come easily, including a beautiful rich fiancée. His reservoir of BS enables him to survive a first fall from grace relatively unchanged, knowing he can retreat to his previous comfort zone. But a second fateful drop begins to deconstruct him, and it takes a sweet animal and a strong beautiful woman to reconstruct him into a decent human being. Yet it’s his initial resistance to that redemption that creates more trouble for him, and almost dooms him.

What is the mood or tone your characters portrays and how does this affect the story?

This is a comedy so the mood and tone are humorous throughout. Even when Ken’s world is falling apart, he retains his sharp wit but turns it toward self-deprecation. For example, while sharing a jail cell with Jake the dog, he sees the animal get preferential treatment. “This is speciesm!” he says. “And I’m on the wrong end of it.” Clearly the second half of the statement bothers him more than the first.

What are the emotional triggers of your characters and how do they act on them?

The most blatant emotional trigger comes at the story’s climax, when everything is once again falling into place for Ken, but only due to his dishonest manipulation of trusting townspeople. The reappearance of his desirable selfish girlfriend, now willing to ride his train to success, even over friends, is like a mirror to his former soullessness, and an affront to his new better angels.

What is your current writing project?

 “Paper Tigers”, a politically incorrect, semi-autobiographical romantic comedy about two ambitious Washington Post interns (copy-aides), a cowboy conservative and a patrician feminist beauty, that answers the question, “Can chemistry trump ideology?” I’m a third of the way through, and can already promise heads will explode. Should be out in time for Christmas.

Where can readers buy your book?

The easiest way is online from Barnes & Noble. And thanks for the plug.

More About Lou Aguliar

Lou Aguilar was born in Cuba and lived there until age six, when his anti-Castro scholar father flew the family to America one step ahead of a firing squad (for his dad, not Lou). He attended the University of Maryland, where he majored in English, minored in film, and found both to be dependent on great writing. He became a journalist for The Washington Post and USA Today, then a screenwriter, and finally a novelist.

Lou has had three small movies produced, including the cult science-fiction filmElectra (33rd on Maxim‘s list of “The 50 Coolest ‘B’ Films of All Time”). He presently writes only “A” scripts and has a television legal drama and military thriller feature in development. Lou’s last short story, “The Mirror Cracked,” was published in a prestigious horror anthology, Kolchak: the Night Stalker Chronicles, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

Lou is single, having postponed marriage until he either made the New York Times best sellers list or won an Oscar. But that stipulation has become less binding as the bird of youth flutters away. 

Website

 

Cover Crush: Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

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island-of-secrets-by-patricia-wilsonIsland of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

Pub Date 18 May 2017

As I remember, the story started at about six o’clock in the morning on the fourteenth of September, 1943…’

All her life Angie 37-year-old London-born has been intrigued by her mother’s secret past. Now, planning her own wedding she feels she must visit the remote Cretan village her mother grew up in, despite her objections.

Unbeknownst to Angie her elderly grandmother, Maria, is dying. She wants to unburden herself of the terrible story that she will otherwise take to the grave. It’s the story of the time of the German occupation of Crete during the Second World War, of horror, of courage and of the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children and of how you learn to go on in the aftermath of tragedy. And it’s the story of bitter secrets that broke the family apart, and of three enchanting women who come together to heal wounds that have damaged two generations.

If you loved Victoria Hislop’s THE ISLAND and the novels of Santa Montefiore and Rosanna Ley, you will fall completely in love with this novel.

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Most of you by now have figured out that I am drawn to  pictures of water. Secrets on an island as part of the premise adds to the allure of this book cover. Everything about this cover including the title gives us a fascinating look at what this book holds. I have not read the story yet but I look forward to sometime in the near future.

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More Great Cover Crushes!

 Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

 Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

 Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

 Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

 Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

 Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

 More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

 

Wish List 5: 1976

me-iiI enjoy putting together wish list for books I want to read and this month’s list was a lot of fun to put together. It came to me a few weeks ago to explore books that were published the year I was born. Alas, I had two minds about this. One: If I do this, it will reveal my age! Two: What the heck. Live a little. I went with the latter. Ha! A few of these were made into movies which I have seen. I thought it would be great to read the books. There are so many interesting titles during 1976 that I am wanting to take a look at. Who knows? I might do another wish list post like this in the future. Feel free to use this idea for your book blogging. Cheers!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

the-great-santiniThe Great Santini by Pat Conroy

Step into the powerhouse life of Bull Meecham. He’s all Marine — fighter pilot, king of the clouds, and absolute ruler of his family. Lillian is his wife — beautiful, southern-bred, with a core of velvet steel. Without her cool head, her kids would be in real trouble. Ben is the oldest, a born athlete whose best never satisfies the big man. Ben’s got to stand up, even fight back, against a father who doesn’t give in — not to his men, not to his wife, and certainly not to his son. Bull Meecham is undoubtedly Pat Conroy’s most explosive character — a man you should hate, but a man you will love.

 

a-river-runs-through-itA River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean

Just as Norman Maclean writes at the end of “A River Runs through It” that he is “haunted by waters,” so have readers been haunted by his novella. A retired English professor who began writing fiction at the age of 70, Maclean produced what is now recognized as one of the classic American stories of the twentieth century. Originally published in 1976, A River Runs through It and Other Stories now celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, marked by this new edition that includes a foreword by Annie Proulx.

Maclean grew up in the western Rocky Mountains in the first decades of the twentieth century. As a young man he worked many summers in logging camps and for the United States Forest Service. The two novellas and short story in this collection are based on his own experiences—the experiences of a young man who found that life was only a step from art in its structures and beauty. The beauty he found was in reality, and so he leaves a careful record of what it was like to work in the woods when it was still a world of horse and hand and foot, without power saws, “cats,” or four-wheel drives. Populated with drunks, loggers, card sharks, and whores, and set in the small towns and surrounding trout streams and mountains of western Montana, the stories concern themselves with the complexities of fly fishing, logging, fighting forest fires, playing cribbage, and being a husband, a son, and a father.

the-deepThe Deep by Peter Benchley

A young couple go to Bermuda on their honeymoon. They dive on the reefs offshore, looking for the wreck of a sunken ship. What they find lures them into a strange and increasingly terrifying encounter with past and present, a struggle for salvage and survival along the floor of the sea, in the deep.

 

 

 

adolf-hitlerAdolf Hitler by John Willard Toland

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Toland’s classic, definitive biography of Adolf Hitler remains the most thorough, readable, accessible, and, as much as possible, objective account of the life of a man whose evil effect on the world in the twentieth century will always be felt.

Toland’s research provided one of the final opportunities for a historian to conduct personal interviews with over two hundred individuals intimately associated with Hitler. At a certain distance yet still with access to many of the people who enabled and who opposed the führer and his Third Reich, Toland strove to treat this life as if Hitler lived and died a hundred years before instead of within his own memory. From childhood and obscurity to his desperate end, Adolf Hitler emerges as, in Toland’s words, “far more complex and contradictory . . . obsessed by his dream of cleansing Europe Jews . . . a hybrid of Prometheus and Lucifer.

in-my-fathers-houseIn My Father’s House by Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom’s ‘prequel’ to the classic The Hiding Place Concentrating upon her family and their life in Holland before the war, this inspiring and revealing book describes in moving detail living above the family watch shop in Harlem and her memories of the family together before their lives changed for ever with the advent of war and persecution. Corrie believed that this life helped prepare them for carrying out God’s work later and gave her the strength to survive the war, brutal hardship and persecution and begin her worldwide ministry. This much loved book is being re-issued in B format with a contemporary cover.

Here are some of the wish lists from a few of my friends this month:

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired-Coming soon

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