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Friday Guest Host: Priscille Sibley May 16, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in guest host, mainstream fictio.
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Priscille Sibley in #litchatAn unspeakable tragedy becomes wrapped in a bittersweet blessing in Priscille Sibley‘s debut novel, The Promise of Stardust. Years before the accident that would put her on life support, Elle McClure went into space to study the stars, but came down to earth to marry  a man grounded by a career in medicine.

High school sweethearts, Elle and Matt Beaulieu have everything money can buy, except a child. After suffering a string of premature stillbirths and miscarriages, the day after she learns she is pregnant again, Elle falls from a ladder and is pronounced brain dead. The Promise of StardustElle hasn’t yet told Matt of the pregnancy, and when the initial trauma examinations miss her pregnancy, Matt is shocked when another test reveals a pregnancy nearing the end of the first trimester. This is when The Promise of Stardust shoots to the stars.

Years ago, Elle filed an informed consent directive that ensures that in case of brain death, her body would not be kept alive by artificial means. Torn by the knowledge of his wife’s no-resuscitation wishes and the possibility of artificially maintaining her body long enough for the baby to incubate to the point of life outside the womb, Matt chooses to save the baby. When his mother, who holds Elle’s power of medical attorney, sides with the paper, Matt’s fight hits the headlines, leads him into court, and nearly tears their families apart.

Within the inter-fused trails of death with dignity, right to life, personal promises, and medical law, emerges a story with the best kind of champion—the unlikely hero who fights for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. Sibley knew early on she would become a nurse. And a poet. Later, her love of words developed into a passion for storytelling.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. She currently lives in New Jersey where she works as a neonatal intensive care nurse and shares her life with her wonderful husband, three tall teenaged sons, and a mischievous Wheaten terrier.

Follow Priscille Sibley on Twitter: @PriscilleSibley.

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Guest Host: James Markert March 14, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, mainstream fictio.
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Guest host of #litchat for Friday, March 15 is James Markert, author of A White Wind Blew.

James Markert in #litchatNovels about illness and dying are often fraught with excessive emotion or didactic preaching about getting the most out of your waning life. Although James Markert’s A White Wind Blew features a doctor still grieving his wife’s death while doing penance as a physician at a lavish tuberculosis hospital during the dry 1920s, it skirts the maudlin with a poignant story about death and dying, grieving and healing, and facing sickness again.

Set in the historic Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium near Louisville, A White Wind Blew features a stellar cast of characters, beginning with Wolfgang Pike. A White Wind BlewDr. Pike was named after his musical father’s favorite composer. But most of the patients at Waverly Hills call him Father. Before meeting his late wife, Rose, he was studying for the priesthood. After Rose’s death he reasserted his desire to be a priest and here’s where the story begins.

Fathers weighs heavily on Wolfgang. There’s God the Father whom Wolfgang believes he failed in marrying Rose, and there’s his own now dead father whom Wolfgang feels he’s failed in becoming a doctor instead of a professional musician an composer. These two failures provide the conflicts that drive Wolfgang to continue working at Waverly rather than returning to the monastery.

And then there’s Nurse Susannah. As hard as he tries, Wolfgang can’t see her as only a sister figure. When a former concert pianist, shell-shocked by the last decade’s war and his missing fingers, checks into Waverly, Wolfgang draws on his substantial musical abilities to draw the music out of the man. While doing so, he unites some of the Negro patients from the decrepit Negro hospital down the hill, with the white patients in the luxury hospital. The KKK is on the rise during the prohibition years and Waverly is not immune to the wicked infection of these masked marauders.

Wolfgang faces the dying and the dead every single day, but his real nemesis is Dr. Barker, whose jealousy over Wolfgang’s ease with the patients and gentle nurturing through music lead him to unkind acts against Wolfgang, knee-jerk decisions that disappoint and confuse everyone at Waverly.

As the last musical note is played, mysteries are revealed. Patients die and patients take the long walk out the gates cured of the scourge that was tuberculosis in those days. Wolfgang must make a decision once again whether he’s truly called to the priesthood, or destined to be a simple man serving God through medicine, music and marriage.

Markert is a novelist, screenwriter, and producer from Louisville, where he lives with his wife and two children. He has a history degree from the University of Louisville, where, in his senior year, he was honored as the school’s most outstanding history major. He won an IPPY Award for The Requiem Rose, published by Butler Books. With Requiem’s local success, James signed with Writers House Literary Agency in New York, and the book was sold to Sourcebooks, Landmark in January 2012. Rewritten and retitled, it was released in North America in early March 2013 as A White Wind Blew. James is currently working on his next novel, The Strange Case of Isaac Crawley, a story that takes place in the late nineteenth century and involves the theater scene, a lunatic asylum, and the theatrical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde… and possibly a few gaslights, cobblestones, and an eerie fog.

Markert is also the screenwriter and co-producer of the romantic tennis comedy, 2nd Serve, which had its world premiere in New York at the Woodstock Film Festival in October 2012, with a national release in the summer of 2013. 2nd Serve was produced by Sundance award winner, Gill Holland, directed by Emmy-nominated Tim Kirkman, and stars Josh Hopkins (Cougar Town). Markert has recently finished another screenplay, From Weed-2-Seed, a drama/comedy about fresh and fast food, and is currently working on a historical horse racing film. His comedy short film, Swimming for Rio: The Jimmy Chaser Story is due to be shot sometime in 2013.

Follow James Markert on Twitter: @JamesMarkert.

Transformations February 13, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, mainstream fictio.
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Jojo Moyes photo © Phyllis ChristopherIn the best novels the leading characters undergo a transformation that moves the plot of the book as it creates connections between readers and characters. On Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss novels where character transformation is achieved, where it fails, when it’s believable, and how it effects the ending. Joining us in the #litchat salon on Friday, February 15 is novelist Jojo Moyes, whose new novel, Me Before You, challenges character transformation in unexpected ways.

Combine a repressed, out-of-work waitress with a boring, self-absorbed boyfriend and put her as a caretaker for a handsome, rich, self-absorbed quadriplegic and you have Me Before You. Sounds pretty predictable, doesn’t it? Well it is. Up to a point. Louisa (better known as Lou) falls in love with her charge, and he with her—the predictable part—but the bittersweet ending blows this story from the predictability pit.

Me Before You.CoverIt all comes down to this. Although he’s recovered physically as well as a quadriplegic can after being hit by a motorcycle two years prior, Will is addicted to a sexy lifestyle, extreme adventures and high-stakes finance. Although there’s no reason why he can’t go back to work buying and selling companies and making oodles of money, he secludes himself within a handicap-equipped bungalow behind his parents’ house. Although he has tons of money to spend on extreme disability sports and adventures, he mopes around while reliving his action-adventure exploits. Although he has more wealth and security than the average quadriplegic, he makes a life-vs-suicide pact with his parents, agreeing to give semi-independent life as a quadriplegic six months before seeking assisted suicide in Switzerland.

Lou is the catalyst to Will’s situation. Hired to be a companion and caretaker, Lou plunges right in with activities designed to relight the fire in Will’s life. When she learns of the life-vs-suicide pact, she pushes the boundaries of her own self-repression in order to change Will’s mind about suicide. Soon Lou herself becomes Will’s project. At Will’s urging, she begins reading good books, watching foreign films, listening to classical music—and enjoying it. She overcomes her aversion to libraries, discovers some online disability forums where she gleans insights about care-taking and how to help Will re-engage with life.

Readers will remember the twisty ending long after closing the covers of Me Before You.

Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typist of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30 she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992 She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University, and apart from 1994 when she worked in Hong Kong for the Sunday Morning Post, she worked at The Independent for ten years, including stints as Assistant news editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.

She has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. She lives on a farm in Essex with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.

Follow Jojo Moyes on Twitter: @JojoMoyes.

Photo of Jojo Moyes © Phyllis Christopher.