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Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Starting Over ~ A Book Club Evening

IN THE SPOTLIGHT–                

From my own book shelves, authors Emily Giffin, Bridget Asher, Barbara O'Neal

From my own book shelves, authors Emily Giffin, Bridget Asher, Barbara O’Neal

“I just love this type of book!”

When I heard those words at my book club Tuesday night, my heart sang. I felt myself smile. The woman was talking about MY kind of book. The kind I read and write. The type that appeals to women, explores family relationships, and provides an emotional ride based on a what-if reality. What if your child isn’t on the school bus at the end of the day?  What if you discover your husband has been having an affair? What if you find out you and your husband can’t have children?  What if a couple decides not to have children but one of them changes their mind? (Baby Proof by Emily Giffin).  What would you do in these situations? You can safely find out in the pages of a book as you struggle along with the characters who are facing these issues.

I love the James Bond stories. But, c’mon. Half the fun of James and his ladies is the eye candy. As for the plot – we  ride in the most nifty cars escaping the bad guys. It’s a hoot to watch, but then we go back to our everyday issues in our ordinary world.

Except sometimes a woman’s ordinary world is rocked, and that is the premise for the genre I’ve been talking about here: Women’s Fiction. In these novels, we follow the female protagonist’s journey through rocky waters as she navigates to her next plateau. Sometimes, a love interest might surprise her. ( Open House by Elizabeth Berg). She might be surrounded by a “cast of thousands,” — relatives, neighbors, co-workers — but it’s basically her story.

More from my shelves: authors Kathryn Shay, Barbara Delinsky and Elizabeth Berg.

More from my shelves: authors Kathryn Shay, Barbara Delinsky and Elizabeth Berg.

On Tuesday evening, I had a special interest in the book club discussion. The group–about twenty participants–had read Family Interrupted. My novel.  Disclaimer: the choice was not my idea. A few months ago, a new book list was being developed and boom! It was included. On the other hand, I didn’t nix the suggestion. As the proverbial fly on the wall, I thought I’d get some insights and discover how readers truly reacted both to the story itself and to the writing. Maybe I’d learn lessons I could apply to my next book.

Well, the fly-on-the-wall idea worked for about the first fifteen minutes. I kept my mouth shut, didn’t make eye contact with anyone, and actually wondered for how much longer I could play the part of a robot. It’s really hard trying to avoid eye contact for that long especially when sitting in a big square formation with people to the right, left and across.

I had wanted to disappear, have the gals to forget I was in the room and just listen as they talked about book. What a dumb idea that was! First of all, it didn’t work. After fifteen minutes, I joined the conversation. We were talking about family issues, after all, and I have opinions, too. I’m used to participating every month. Second of all – and this is more important – I sensed that these readers wanted me involved. This seemed logical to me. After all, how many times would a real, live author be present at these meetings? How many times would these readers be able to ask questions directly to the author of a book they’d just read?

So away we went. Some of the discussion followed the questions I’d provided at the back of the book. Why did the characters do this or that? Questions were raised about the story couple’s marriage. Readers wanted to know how I came up with the idea. And one admitted, “You made me grab for tissues several times!” Good. An author wants to tap into a reader’s emotions, wants the reader to care about the characters.

The question that came from me, the one  I always love to ask is, “What do you think happens after the book ends?” We actually talked about a sequel which amazed me because I’d never had that in mind! As an author who worries about everything, and who knows the issues I had to confront when writing the book, I asked a question that no one else considered important at all. “Did the verb tenses work? Did you get confused as time flashed back and then back again?” Verb tenses ate my lunch as I wrote the book (which is one reason I hire an editor). And yet,  here in front of my eyes, these gals laughed at me.

So I learned once more that a good story wins every time. And that I worry too much. I don’t think, however, that I’ll ever stop.

This one's also on my shelf! And in my e-reader.

This one’s also on my shelf! And in my e-reader.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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P.S.  I’ll be sending out a newsletter on October 3rd.  If you’d like to get it–right into your in-box–you can sign up for it here on the website.

 

 

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp–The Book Club

READING AND WRITING AND BOOK CLUBS, OH MY!           

About a dozen women usually show up at the monthly book club meeting in my community. These women, who are becoming friends, are totally engaged in story. They are NOT shy about expressing their opinions on what they’ve read.Or on what the author was doing. Or on figuring out the answer to: What could the author have possibly been thinking? I so enjoy these discussions. After writing professionally for fifteen years, I’m finally eavesdropping on enthusiastic readers. What a treat for me! I hope, too, that I contribute something a little bit extra to the discussions.

Maggie and her Kindle

This month, we read The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls. I’d call it a complex romance, search for love and roots. The group enjoyed the story and discussion was brisk. In our new world of publishing, I’m always curious about how people read their books–electronic vs. paper. So, for fun, I took a user-friendly survey of reading  preferences.  Of the ten women who showed up this week, four brought their eReaders with them. Two brought library copies of the book. One came with a trade paperback copy she bought on  Amazon for $6.00–new, not used. Not sure about the others. But I glommed onto the 40% statistic of eReader users.

Here’s what happened next:  We noted the book for next month (Wild Swans) and right there, my friend, Maggie and I downloaded it to our Kindle and Nook. I looked at the others and said, “You just watched me spend $12.38.”  To which Maggie replied, “And why not? It’s just like spending on a concert ticket. It’s entertainment, whether a singer or an author. And I enjoy books.”

As an author, I adore her attitude. I adore her. She spoke spontaneously and with conviction as though saying, how could you think otherwise?

I also discovered that the county library has changed its inventory. There were only two paper copies of Wild Swans – next month’s choice –  in the entire system. More and more books are to be accessed electronically. Many of the women are not happy. They want to hold a book in their hands. Frankly, there are times I want to do the same, particularly at a book club discussion. However, I love reading on my Nook and wouldn’t give it up.

I glanced down the list of forthcoming books for the club:

July – Wild Swans by Jung Chang

August – The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

September – Family Interrupted by Linda Barrett

October – The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Whoa…whoa….back up there. Did you notice that September selection?  That will be a new experience for me. I insisted that someone else is leading the discussion while I hang around quietly, like the proverbial fly on the wall. I’ll keep my mouth shut no matter what they say…unless of course, they turn to me and ask, “Linda, whatever were you thinking?”.

WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?  Let us know if you think it’s a good choice for a club discussion.

Leave a comment and your name will be entered into a great drawing for the month of June. Prizes are your choice of two books out of the six shown below, all written by members of On Fire Fiction. Plus a $25 gift certificate to your favorite eTailer.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over!

LInda

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Starting Over~~Fingers on the Keyboard

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS ARE NOT ENOUGH…

Yes, that's moi. My fingers at my messy desk.

Yes, that’s moi. My fingers at my messy desk.

I’m trying to organize my writing life so I can be as efficient as possible. I make lists. I use a calendar. I bought a tablet so I can connect to the Internet in any room of the house. And I’ve just started a new book. I think I’ve made my environment as user friendly as possible. But so far, it’s not working.  My brain is frazzled. My thoughts jump around faster than my three year old grandson on a trampoline.

Every morning I wonder what to do first. My friend, author Kathryn Shay, advised me NOT to go on Facebook before I’d written my new pages for the day. Her words made sense. A new book will only get written if I sit down and write! I’m talking about new material. But you know…?  Diving into an unfinished work, writing a new scene, figuring out motivation…is so much harder than checking out what’s doing on Facebook.  I tell myself that five minutes is all I need. But as anyone who uses FB regularly will tell you—it’s a timesuck.  It’s fun to catch up with readers, writers and friends. And I certainly want to have a presence and gently remind folks about my latest book, Family Interrupted. But an hour can fly by and suddenly, it’s mid-morning.

LINDA BARRETT (2)

Perhaps I should start my day with email. I check my email accounts several  many times (trying to be honest here) during the working day. And in the evening, it’s a choice between email and Spider Solitaire before I close down for the night. Email includes business and pleasure; my writing life and personal life. I’m part of On Fire Fiction, a writing group that supports each other’s promotional efforts, and we correspond via email. So keeping in touch is essential. Sometimes, we do projects together such as the holiday anthology which will be released in October. So, email is not a waste of time.  But it’s NOT writing new material–except new emails. And the day is flying by.

Kathryn told me that it takes discipline to ignore all things Internet in the morning. She has it. She’s trained herself to write first, then do everything else. I think her advice is sound. Intellectually, I KNOW it’s sound. Without publishing a new book on a regular basis, all the social media in the world won’t matter. In the end, the work has to come first.  As proof, here comes another book in Kathy’s firefighter series.  It’s being released on August 12th as an exclusive from Amazon.

Kathy Shay's latest book to be released August 12th exclusively on Amazon.

Kathy Shay’s latest book to be released August 12th exclusively on Amazon.

So my new resolution is to ignore the Internet in the morning. Starting tomorrow, I will write first. I couldn’t start today because I had to get this blog up. So Tuesdays are out. But from now on, no Internet in the morning for me. Starting tomorrow and every day thereafter, I will work on the new book first. Except, of course, for Thursdays because I post my blogs on Thursdays, too. But definitely starting tomorrow, I will have a new routine. If it works for Kathy, it should work for me. Right?  Hmm…I have to ask her if Saturdays and Sundays count…

So, I’ve taken care of business. And as far as my personal connections go, I’d much rather call my sister on the phone. Yes, the phone. The one in the house, not in my purse. The one we use for talking, not texting. The phone is more important to us than you can imagine because…my sister has never been on Facebook in her life!

POST A COMMENT:  How are you managing to combine business with social media and still produce your work?  Do you have a schedule you can stick to?  Make a comment and you’ll be entered into the June drawing for two fabulous prizes. First up – your choice of two books by  authors of On Fire Fiction. See below for choices.  Second, a $25 gift certificate to the eTailer of your choice – Amazon, BN, iTunes…whatever.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

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