Kirkus Speaks About Intimate Things

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Coincidentally, today’s the day I received a review of In This Love Together – Love, Failing Limbs and Cancer. When you’re writing about things as intimate as a marriage, inseminated deeply with love, you’re never sure if you see the width and breadth of the forest for at least one of the trees comprising it. The review seems a good one, but a couple of twisty phrases had me unsure. (This is quintessential writer’s insecurity – comes with the territory.)

So I felt the need to gather a second opinion, from the one person who had almost as much to do with the book’s compositions I – Connie May Fowler. Connie’s opinion? It’s a rave review – you should celebrate! So to kick off the celebration (to be followed by a very necessary, spring cleaning scrub-down, fore and aft, of my condo), here’s what Kirkus has to say about the memoir:

Mustin (We Are Strong, But We Are Fragile, 2014, etc.) offers an emotional, articulate memoir of his late wife’s fight against cancer.

The author, a longtime engineer, had already gone through a rocky marriage and a sour divorce when a former co-worker, Becca, reentered his life. She was an outdoorsy, practical, and attractive environmental specialist who was still healing from a previous marriage herself, and the two began seeing each other romantically. As Mustin notes, dating in middle age isn’t very different from the blissful giddiness and insecurity of dating in one’s 20s, and eventually he and Becca married at a courthouse on a workday afternoon. But 17 years later, his 64-year-old wife developed a cancerous tumor on her tongue. “My thoughts resist the linearity of chronological order,” the author says as he explains his abstract narrative, which starts the book with the onset of Becca’s illness, backtracks to the day that they first met, intersperses well-researched facts on cancer, and weaves through events in the couple’s marriage with the randomness of human memory. It’s a brilliant storytelling device—the reader struggles to understand new contexts, details, and narratives, just as the author himself struggles to make sense of a maddening terminal illness. Mustin’s love for and frequent awe of his wife is evident in every detail of this remembrance. Even when he frankly points out her shortcomings, such as her somewhat taciturn air and her difficult relationship with her mother (which he discovered during a particularly uncomfortable holiday visit), his reverent tone gives his words a rosy, warm hue. The details of Becca’s squamous-cell carcinoma are unsparing, yet the author balances them with delicate, loving vignettes of their life together, including unexpected moments of romance, which gives the book a disarming eloquence. Their relationship was not perfect, as Mustin makes clear; their flaws, insecurities, and reluctances often got the best of both of them. Yet as he writes their story, he articulates how their difficult journey revealed their true love, in spite of it all.

A memoir that balances clarity, precision, and emotion while telling a tragic story.

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

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Writing A Book Review, Are You?

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My World War II novel – or I should call it more accurately a fictional biography – is out in advance copies now, and I’ve asked quite a number of friends and acquaintances to read and review the book. All seem more than willing, but some half are wringing their hands over writing a review. So what’s in a review?

Reviews can be as long as a magazine article or as short as a book cover blurb, but reviewers will want to accomplish roughly the same things in them regardless of length. For my book, and for those I review here, I’d say the length should be from one long paragraph to three moderately long ones. In these, there are certain things to be accomplished:

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  1. The first sentence should “hook” the reader’s interest. Something intriguing that comes to mind about the book, or possibly something that sums up the book in an interesting way. Not just “I like this book…” but something that gets to the core of the book from some an unusual perspective. Let’s say the book is about traveling by train. You might begin with “I grew up in a small town, a town that wouldn’t have existed had a railroad not run there. I would listen to the train whistle at night, wondering what the train was carrying, who was aboard…”
  2. Don’t go off on a tangent with 1. above; instead segue as quickly as possible into your review of the book. This is most often written in present tense. The most common advice here is don’t write the book you wish the author had written; review the book before you, as it is. Be concise but sum up the story without giving away the key to the story. Something brief about the main characters, in the context of the story.
  3. Are you familiar with the author and his/her work? The author’s past history of books/stories published – basically the writer’s authority on the subject of this book.
  4. Finally, summarize the book from your perspective. Did you like it? Why?

This may sound daunting, but you’ll likely find that you have a handle on all of this from your reading. It’s just a question of putting it together. You can do it!

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

A Really Great Review

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We writers read for enjoyment, yes, but try as we might, we find ourselves sizing up the competition. At first we gain prototypes from which we learn. As we continue to grow in technique and possibly in talent, we try to fit ourselves into the panoply of writers: the famous, who make the money; the geniuses, who give us new structure and vocabulary; the storytellers, who hold us speechless as we turn page after page.

This is largely what we writers do when we blog books. But occasionally we grab the brass ring for ourselves, and something we’ve written becomes praiseworthy in the eyes, the ears, the mind, of prominent reviewers. I received such a gift this weekend – – praise for my latest, Collateral Damage and Stories. What transpired? Have a look:

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Thank you, Rob Neufeld!

P&W’s Slant on Self-Publishing

Poets & Writers, November/December 2013

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Being a writer caught between the traditional and the self-pub worlds, I’m always drawn to the what-ifs of self publishing articles and advice columns. P&W seems to be aware of this changing reality, given that an annual issue appears on that subject, so I dug in to this issue – with gusto.

If you’ve done the same for the past couple of years, you’ll find this issue disappointing in that regard. But if you’re just now thinking of diving into those waters you’ll find much to inform and reassure you. Publicity is where most of us bump our heads, whether published traditionally or solo, and Michelle Blankenship, in her column, “The Heartbeat of Publicity,” gives us both the somewhat gloomy reality of publicizing one’s self and works and some pragmatic advice on the best ways to go about publicity.

Reviews are another must for all writers, and Melissa Faliveno dishes on paying for reviews as well as gaining them for free.

Otherwise, Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Pray, Love fame, gives us her story on grabbing the literary brass ring.

P&W promises and almost always delivers on items to inspire, inform, and reassure, and this issue falls right in the fat part of that bell curve.

 

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

Taking Comfort in Promo and Reviews & A Celebration

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When the alternate-universe high of writing a book and having it published wanes, you’re left with the real world concerns of promotion and coping with reviews, whether they’re good, blah, or bad. Maybe J.R. McLemore’s approach to such things will help you navigate that emotional minefield.

Oh, and this is my blog’s 1,000th post. Wow!!

Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.