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Indie Author Showcase: Tara Staley November 26, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in coming-of-age, fiction, literary fiction.
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Tara Staley in #litchatTara Staley: Guest host for Friday, November 30, 2012

A good Southern story is set in a place as realistic and vivid as the characters are colorful and meaningful, yet it’s the author’s voice that gives Southern fiction its distinctive flavor. From this trinity of setting, character and voice comes Tara Staley‘s debut novel, Need to Breathe.

Where else but a town called Union Cross, North Carolina can a guardian angel named Millie Rose look over the premature infant of a dysfunctional teenage couple? When that premature infant is born with chemical burns across her body, her lungs bursting to breathe, it’s Millie Rose who gets beside her and chants, “you need to breathe.” After several harrowing minutes of neonatal heroics, breathe she does. The miracle of breath fills her lungs, pumps her heart and haunts her imagination throughout her life.

This 26-week-old preemie is named Claire. Her parents, Mick and Mandy, haven’t a clue about their own lives, let alone raising a child. Saddled with the special needs of Claire–medically challenging, intellectually precocious, socially awkward–they sink into the abyss of too much responsibility at too young of an age. This is where Millie Rose works wonders.

For all her Southern wisdom, Millie Rose is a Yankee. She’d dreamed of being a mother herself once, but died in childbirth in 1922. Officially she is a “Corporeal Agent,” and though she answers to God, there’s very little angelic about her. She has demons of her own that sidetrack her from her mission to watch over Claire and lead her to her future soul mate.

Despite her having a guardian angel guiding her—or attempting to in the case of the headstrong Claire—Claire manages to mess up her life as much as her mother and father had their own. Her father hides away in his muscle car projects, while her interior designer mother is obsessed with finding the perfect shade of white. Each of them are riddled with shame from the secret they won’t even discuss among themselves behind the reason for Claire’s premature birth.

Characters such as the endearing geriatric twins Gerta and Grace enrich the Southern voice, while the geeky Charlie and the androgynous Big Mac strike a contemporary chord.

Tara Staley’s writing background includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and Creative Writing, an RWA award for a past novel, and involvement with the North Carolina Writers Network. She is also a founding member of the online writers’ community Backspace. Her fiction has been blurbed by nationally bestselling and award-winning authors such as Caroline Leavitt and Cornelia Read. As a freelancer, her work has appeared in such publications as UNCG Magazine, BizLife Magazine and the Winston-Salem Journal. She grew up, lives, and will most likely die in Kernersville, North Carolina (except for a one-year study abroad stint in Australia thanks to a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship). She and her husband have two sons. Staley is currently finishing up her next novel, Conditions Are Favorable, biographical fiction that brings to life the world of the Wright brothers and the Kitty Hawkers in the early 1900s.

Follow Tara Staley on Twitter: @TaraStaley

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Sizzling Summer Reads May 27, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, weekly topics.
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There will be no MediaMonday discussion today in #litchat as we observe Memorial Day.

Jennifer Miller in #litchatOn Wednesday and Friday of this week we’ll discuss Sizzling Summer Reads with previews of this summer’s hot fiction. Joining us as guest host on Friday, June 1, is Jennifer Miller, author of The Year of the Gadfly.

In The Year of the Gadfly, Miller takes us inside the hallowed halls of prestigious prep school Mariana Academy. Storied, fiercely competitive Mariana Academy was founded with a serious honor code; its reputation has been unsullied for decades. Now a long-dormant secret society, Prisom’s Party, threatens its placid halls with vigilante justice, exposing students and teachers alike for even the most minor infraction. Iris Dupont, a budding journalist whose only confidant is the chainsmoking specter of Edward R. Murrow, feels sure she can break into the ranks of The Devil’s Advocate, the Party’s underground newspaper, and there uncover the source of its blackmail schemes and vilifying rumors. Some involve the school’s new science teacher, who also seems to be investigating the Party. Others point to an albino student who left school abruptly ten years before, never to return. And everything connects to a rare book called Marvelous Species. But the truth comes with its own dangers, and Iris is torn between her allegiances, her reporter’s instinct, and her own troubled past.

The Year of the Gadfly is an exhilarating journey of double-crosses, deeply buried secrets, and the lifelong reverberations of losing someone you love. Following in the tradition of classic prep school novels like Separate Peace, Prep, and The Secret History, it reminds us how these years haunt our lives forever.

Jennifer Miller, author of Inheriting the Holy Land: An American’s Search for Hope in the Middle East, holds an undergraduate degree from Brown and graduate degrees in journalism and fiction from Columbia. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Marie Claire, the Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Beast, Salon, and others. She is a native of Washington, D.C. and now lives in Brooklyn. The Year of the Gadflly is her first novel.

Follow Jennifer Miller on Twitter: @propjen.

Watch the book video trailer: The Year of the Gadfly

Grit Lit and Growth January 23, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, grit lit, literary fiction, Uncategorized.
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Eleanor HendersonSome stories are just so raw and gritty they can’t be told without wincing in pain for the characters and with the author who surely bled tears while writing. These are stories and characters who linger like the scent of flowers after a funeral, neither unpleasant, nor comforting. Reflecting the times in which they occur, they are mirrors to some and to others they’re hideous portraits of life’s underbelly. This week in #litchat we’re discussing the raw and gritty literature that leads to growth and keeps you thinking.

Joining us on Friday, January 27, is Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints (Ecco). Named among the Top Ten Books of 2011 by the New York Times, as well as a dozen other notable lists, Ten Thousand Saints is a solid literary debut from an author with a strong voice. There are so many themes worthy of discussion within Ten Thousand Saints, it’s hard to draw on one to the exclusion of others.

Set primarily in a fictional Vermont town and NYC’s lower east side during the mid-1980s, Henderson skillfully folds us into the lives of four teenagers escaping the dysfunctional homes of their 1960s generation hippie parents. The backbone of the story is Teddy, who early in the novel dies of an overdose, yet continues to prop up the story through the guilt each of his friends carry about the night of his death. In a milieu of drugs, sex and punk rock, we meet Jude, Teddy’s best friend; Eliza, the girl who had sex with Teddy the night he died and bears his child, and Johnny, Teddy’s older brother, a straight-edge adherent who marries Eliza in homage to Teddy. As Jude is drawn into the straight-edge punk lifestyle flourishing in the lower east side, Johnny’s  marriage to Eliza conflicts and counters everything they both believe. The specter of death hangs around the three characters, as AIDS raises from the unknown and into the bloodstream of America. Hope rests on Jude in the end, leaving the reader to speculate and wonder and imagine a dozen scenarios of closure.

Eleanor Henderson was born in Greece, grew up in Florida, and attended Middlebury College and the University of Virginia, where she received her MFA in 2005.  Her fiction has appeared in Agni, North American Review, Ninth Letter, Columbia, and Salon, among other publications.  Her story “The Farms” was nominated for a Pushcart and selected by Alice Sebold for The Best American Short Stories 2009. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, All Things Considered, Poets & Writers (where she was a contributing editor), and The Virginia Quarterly Review (where she was the chair of the fiction board)From 2006 to 2010 she taught at James Madison University in Virginia.  Now an assistant professor at Ithaca College, she lives in Ithaca, New York, with her husband, Aaron, and sons Nico and Henry.

View the video trailer for Ten Thousand Saints.

Follow Eleanor Henderson on Twitter: @eleanorofithaca.

Ugly Ducklings August 8, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in African-American literature, coming-of-age, fiction, multi-cultural fiction.
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Ernessa T. Carter (photo: Christian Hibbard)

Fiction is rife with ugly ducklings who mature into beautiful swans. Some of them leave behind the tatty feathers of the past for the sequins of success, never to look back. Others are driven to soar higher, farther, faster in a “living well is the best revenge” on those who poked fun at their facades in the dark days of their uglihood. Then there are those who harry their harassers, plotting ingenious revenge on the beautiful people who shamed, bullied, and scorned them. This week in #litchat we’re discussing ugly ducklings in literature.

Guest host on Friday, August 12, is Ernessa T. Carter, whose debut novel, 32 Candles features an ugly duckling heroine who belts out velvet soul on stage while plotting silken revenge on her high school persecutors. Abuse isn’t new to Davidia Jones, though. Her mother, an alcoholic small-time prostitute beat the voice right out of Davidia when she was a child. Davidia finds refuge in the happy ending romances of Molly Ringwald movies until a particularly cruel prank by the richest and most beautiful girl in town sends Davidia fleeing for her sanity. On the road to sanity, she finds her voice on a nightclub stage in L.A. and grows into the skin she was born to flaunt as sultry chanteuse Davie Jones. Having eschewed the Molly Ringwald endings, the transformed Davie is stunned for the second time in her life when high school crush, James, brother to the cruel tormentor of her Molly Ringwald years, reenters her life. Davidia/Davie is one of those characters we root and rage with, whose struggle reminds us that to some extent we are all  products of personal reinvention.

Ernessa T. Carter, 32, has worked as an English as a Second Language teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburgh, a payroll administrator in Burbank, and a radio writer for “American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest” in Hollywood. She’s also a retired L.A. Derby Doll (roller-derby), and now lives, blogs, and writes in Los Angeles. A graduate of Smith College and Carnegie Mellon University’s MFA program, 32 Candles is her first novel. She blogs at www.fierceandnerdy.com.

Follow Ernessa T. Carter on Twitter: @ErnessaTCarter.

Taking the E-Road: Publishing Direct to E-Book June 20, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, e-books, fantasy, fiction, literary fiction, self-published authors, self-publishing.
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Last March bestselling author Barry Eisler made publishing headlines when he announced his new novel would circumvent traditional publishing and go direct to market as an e-book. The writing was on the wall long before Eisler came public with his choice. Nearly two years earlier author J.A. Konrath had already cleared obstacles barring the successful promotion and sales of fiction through self-publishing to e-book. Shortly after Eisler’s announcement, Huffington Post published this insightful conversation between the two authors, which went on to become a live discussion continuing today through Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog. How will such defections of bestselling authors affect the publishing industry at large? Last week PBS Media Shift addressed this issue with this report on literary agents acting as self-publishing consultants. The publishing paradigm is shifting so quickly now, the image is blurred.

This week in #litchat we’ll discuss the trend of authors–both known and unknown–to go direct to e-book.  We’ll feature three authors who have taken their careers into their own hands and boldly gone where Konrath and Eisler have already been. These authors, however, aren’t bestellers. Yet. Each of them have already achieved success within e-pub rankings and are forging new paths for other yet-unpublished authors to follow.

Monday: Georganna Hancock

Georganna Hancock shares the inside tips on how to whip a manuscript into shape for successful e-book formatting, promotion and sales. Hancock’s rich experience as an editor is the focal point for this discussion, as she emphasizes the importance of professional editing for content, grammar and style that is often skipped by self-publishing authors. She’ll also share insights on how to set-up an Amazon account for direct-to-Kindle publishing, how to format your manuscript for the best e-book results, as well as promotional and marketing tips for sales. Hancock holds a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University and now works as an independent editor and publishing consultant.

Follow Georganna Hancock on Twitter: @GLHancock.

Wednesday: Eileen Cruz Coleman

Eileen Cruz Coleman has published two novels direct to e-book. Her first novel, Sweetwater American, was released on Kindle in February 2010. Excerpts from Sweetwater American have been published in short story form in The Saint Ann’s Review, Bathtub Gin, Thought Magazine, Rosebud Magazine, Sundry: A Journal of the Arts, In Posse Review, Small Spiral Notebook, and Slow Trains Magazine. Excerpts from Sweetwater American have also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has won third place in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. At this writing, her latest novel, Rumpel, is holding the number 2 position at Amazon Kindle’s Horror/Ghosts category. Rumpel is a literary retelling of the Brothers Grimm classic, Rumpelstiltskin, peopled with sinister spooks and textured with dark swaths of chicanery.  Cruz Coleman was born in Washington, D.C. and is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in European History. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.

Follow Eileen Cruz Coleman on Twitter: @EileenCruzColeman.

Friday: Billie Hinton

Billie Hinton began her own publishing company, November Hill Press, in the summer of 2010, launching her first title, Claire-Obscure, a literary fiction masterpiece. In the year that has followed, she has published two more literary fiction titles, The Meaning of Isolated Objects (December 2010) and Signs That May Be Omens (March 2011, continuation in the Claire Quartet). In February 2011, she published the first in her middle grade Magical Pony School series, Jane’s Transformation. These titles have been shaped through the years by Hinton’s magical literary touch and now come to readers through Kindle and Smashwords. Her writing has been praised by bestselling authors, critics and other publishing pundits, both in traditional and transitional fields. Hinton, a psychotherapist by vocation, also leads writing retreats designed to unleash the creativity and empower writers to project completion. She lives on a small horse farm in North Carolina with her husband, two teenagers, three horses, a painted pony, five felines, and two Corgis.

Follow Billie Hinton on Twitter: @billiehinton.

Decisions and Do-Overs June 6, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, fiction, women's fiction.
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Ellen Meister (Hy Goldberg, Visions Photography)

A poster hung in my high school English classroom stating the obvious: “Not to decide is to decide.” At least I thought it was obvious back then. Like many teenagers, I already I knew everything. When one of the girls in my high school delayed having an abortion until she was seven months gone, she found it was too late when she went to the clinic. Her failure to decide forced the decision. She had the baby that summer and didn’t go back for her senior year. The next time I stepped into the English classroom and read the poster, I realized the obvious is often masked by its simplicity. Decisions—whether we make them consciously or they’re made when we fail to choose—live with us forever. This week in #litchat we’re discussing novels with themes of do-overs and decisions.

Ellen Meister joins us Friday, June 10, as guest host of #litchat. Her new novel, The Other Life, asks the question, “What if you could return to the road not taken?” Quinn Braverman faces that question when she discovers she can slip through a portal into a parallel life that seems only to exist when she enters. Drawn from the choice she didn’t make, it’s a life where loved ones now gone still live and speak and give answers, where the excruciating decision overshadowing her real life will simply not exist. Most compelling of all, it’s a do-over life as real as the one she leaves behind, tempting and seductive and safe. Pure escape. While Meister’s first two novels showcased her comedic talents, and The Other Life has moments of humor, its power comes from the hard choices facing Quinn, not just the struggle to stay in her authentic life, but the inevitable decision that shapes her future.

Meister is the author of two other novels, The Smart One and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, as well as numerous short stories. In addition to writing, she served as editor for a literary magazine, runs an online mentoring group for women authors, and curates for DimeStories, a literary radio program. Ellen does public speaking about her books and other writing-related issues. She is working on her fourth novel, Farewell, Dorothy Parker.  She lives on Long Island with her husband and three children.

Follow Ellen Meister on Twitter: @EllenMeister.

Memoir Masquerade May 15, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in chick lit, fiction, novelography.
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Dana Precious

Fiction is made of lies sprinkled with truth. Or is it made of truth written as lies? Either way, some novels are referred to as veiled autobiography, or as #litchat has tagged them, novelography. Why do some writers couch their life stories in fiction, rather than memoir? What about memoirs later exposed as fiction? This week in #litchat we’re discussing memoir masquerading as fiction.

Joining us on Friday, May 20, is Dana Precious, author of Born Under a Lucky Moon (William Morrow). A debut novel released in February, Precious admits much of the storyline is derived from her real life.

“The novel Born Under A Lucky Moon, while fictional, is based on real life events in my life,” writes Precious in the novel’s website.” The story that takes place in 1986 is inspired by some things that happened in my life.  It noodled around in my head for decades until I knew I had to write it down just to stop thinking about it.  I did compress some events to fit into a specific time frame.”

Born Under a Lucky Moon is the tale of two very important (but distant) years in the lives of Hollywood studio executive Jeannie Thompson and her colorful family members to whom zany things just seem to happen. From the Great Lakes of Michigan to Los Angeles and back again, it is a story of unexpected marriage proposals, surprise marriages, a renegade granny, a sprinkler system cursed by the gods, and myriad other factors Jeannie blames for her full-tilt, out-of-control existence.

“Why I felt I had to write part of Born Under A Lucky Moon also as a present day love story was not self evident to me for a long time.  It just kind of kept inserting back itself into the book – much like it kept inserting itself into [character] Jeannie’s life.  It started as a tale of two confused lovers with the most vague of a Hollywood setting.  Gradually it took form and I’m pleased with the results.”

As an advertising executive for a Hollywood studio, Precious draws the line about the reality of much of the Hollywood hijinks occurring in the storyline.

“Other than the fact that I worked (and still work) as a film studio marketing executive, this part of the story is completely fictional.  Maybe I was inspired by the behaviors, excesses and eccentricities that I witnessed in the film business but no character, event or place is true. ”

Follow Dana Precious on Twitter: @danaprecious.

Suspense May 9, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, e-books, fiction, suspense.
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M.J. Rose

Learning to control fear is a milestone along life’s journey. Educators and psychologists agree that reading scary books actually helps people face and overcome fear. With suspense as our topic of the week, we’ll begin on Monday discussing what makes a suspense novel work, why it’s different from a thriller, and how suspense works to help people through their own personal phobias and fears. On Wednesday, we’ll continue the conversation with discussion of specific suspense novels and the authors who write them. Friday’s guest host, award-winning suspense author M.J. Rose, will complete the week’s topic.

Rose is the international bestselling author of 11 novels, her most recent release being The Hypnotist, the third in her Reincarnationist series which includes The Reincarnationist and The Memorist. Her other novels are Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex and The Venus Fix.

Getting published has been an adventure for Rose who self-published Lip Service late in 1998 after several traditional publishers turned it down. Editors had loved it, but didn’t know how to position it or market it since it didn’t fit into any one genre.

Frustrated, but curious and convinced that there was a readership for her work, she set up a web site where readers could download her book for $9.95 and began to seriously market the novel on the Internet.

After selling over 2500 copies (in both electronic and trade paper format) Lip Service became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club.

Rose is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How to Publish and Promote Online, and with Doug Clegg of Buzz Your Book .

She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She runs two popular blogs; Buzz, Balls & Hype andBackstory.

Follow M.J. Rose on Twitter: @MJRose.

Connections April 18, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, commercial fiction, fiction, food, literary fiction.
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Jael McHenry

The information superhighway has bridged oceans, united diverse voices, and placed virtual libraries in the palm of your hand. It’s the age of connection, when reaching out to strangers through chatrooms, forums, blogs and other forms of social media such as Twitter, is not only common, it’s expected. This week in #litchat we’re discussing connections and how they inform our reading choices, our writing practices, and the way we interact with other people.

On Friday, April 22, #litchat welcomes Jael McHernry, author of the recently released novel, The Kitchen Daughter. In this brilliant debut, McHenry brings us a sheltered young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, whose struggle for independence following the death of her parents is a poignant buffet of surprises. McHenry’s protagonist, Ginny, has difficulty connecting with people, but can connect with the dead when cooking from their handwritten recipes.

The invoking of ghosts puts one in mind of horror or other spine-chilling scenarios, but don’t expect screams and wails and rattling of chains in this high concept literary novel. The real story within The Kitchen Daughter is discovery of self, acceptance of family, letting go of and reaching out to others through simple things such as touch, talk, and trust—each an essential element of connection. Read more about The Kitchen Daughter here.

McHenry is a passionate amateur cook who grew up in Michigan and Iowa before moving from city to city along the East Coast: Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and now New York, where she blogs about food and cooking at the Simmer blog. The Kitchen Daughter includes ten of her original recipes, ranging in simple cocktail concoctions to complex ethnic cuisine. McHenry tantalizes readers of The Kitchen Daughter with descriptions of food and its preparation, layering the text with fascinating cooking lore and culinary techniques.

In addition to cooking and writing fiction, McHenry is a monthly pop culture columnist and Editor-in-Chief of Intrepid Media. Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing.

Follow Jael McHenry on Twitter: @JaelMcHenry.

Ensemble Novels March 14, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, commercial fiction, fiction, thrillers, weekly topics, women's fiction.
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Meg Waite Clayton

Can a novel have more than one protagonist without losing focus and continuity? This week in #litchat we’re discussing novels that feature an ensemble cast, where more than one protagonist shares the stage for the revelation of story.

Guest host on Friday, March 18, is Meg Waite Clayton, whose debut novel, The Language of Light, was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize. Her most recent novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells, features an ensemble cast of four strong women who bond during law school in 1979 and remain allies throughout life’s trials and triumphs.

Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four reunite for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

In addition to the acclaimed, The Language of Light, Clayton’s 2008 ensemble novel, The Wednesday Sisters, was a national bestseller. Clayton hosts the blog, 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started, which features award-winning and bestselling authors sharing stories about their paths to writing and publishing. Her short stories and essays have been read on public radio and have appeared in commercial and literary magazines. She’s a graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan Law School, and lives with her family in Palo Alto, Calif.

Follow Meg Waite Clayton on Twitter: @MegWClayton