Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Nasty Woman Who Can't Seal the Deal

Has it really come down to a bully in a Make America Great Again baseball cap? Click here to find out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sex, Lies, and Shackles

Is Monty cheating on Lucy? And how could things have sunk so low? Click Here to read Sex, Lies, and Shackles to find out!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Anyone's Game

Win or lose, stay away from bullies. Read Anyone's Game on November Surprises Blog. Click Here

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Breaking News

Will Monty go back to Evelyn? Will CNN ever call Trump on all his staged antics? Find out on the latest November Surprises Blog post. Click here to read "Breaking News."

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Thought on Audio Books and YOU WILL KNOW ME

I've always felt that the best way to learn to write fiction is to read fiction. And while I will always be an avid reader, in the last couple of years I have grown more and more fond of listening to audio books as well. Maybe it's because I am forced to focus on every word, rather than skimming as I unintentionally do sometimes while reading. Maybe it's because I am always uninterrupted while listening to an audio book, even if it's just for a few minutes at a time. Having a book read to me is so informative and it really gets me thinking about plot structure, characterization, and prose. Usually I will listen on my drive to and from work, but  in the last few weeks I have also listened to an audio book while going for my morning runs.

At the end of the summer I began You Will Know Me, by Meg Abbot. Every morning as I jogged through the blocks of my neighborhood, I listened to this pseudo-thriller about an Olympic-hopeful gymnast and her mother. It was usually pretty warm outside as I ran, it was always humid, and more often than not my knees hurt because I've been in the habit of running for nearly twenty years, and well, that takes a toll. But the story was good enough to keep me going. Abbot's use of description is jaw-droppingly good and had me thinking, "Wow, I don't use description well AT ALL." The more I read, the more I write, and the more I study writing, the more I am convinced that effectively conveying the big picture is done by focusing on the details, and Meg Abbot is nearly poetic in how she uses detail to create a picture and establish emotion. I was truly inspired.

The book got great reviews from places like the New York Times and other major publications, and slightly higher than mediocre reviews from readers on Amazon. Some say the story moves to slow.  It's about Devon, a fourteen year old girl who wants to become an elite gymnast. Right as her last chance to do so comes up, a young man connected to the gym where she trains is murdered, and that has major implications for everyone involved. The plot centers around Devon's mother, Katie, and we are privy to her thoughts and actions throughout. While I wouldn't call the book slow, I did get frustrated at times that Katie was slow, not putting two and two together when anyone else would. I also saw the end coming, but that's okay. It was more about the getting there, and the getting there was done pretty well.

One tiny little rant though - I've noticed lately in several books that when a protagonist is a woman with a teenage daughter, the woman still can't be older than her mid-thirties. What's that about? In You Will Know Me, Katie and her husband Eric supposedly got married and had Devon by the time Katie was nineteen? Okay, but the rest of their back-story doesn't make sense: how they managed to buy a house, establish a career without ever going to school, remember past relationships, etc. It was just unnecessary. Why is it so horrible to have a female protagonist over forty?

And one other thing: SPOILER ALERT!  Don't read this part if you don't want the ending ruined.
Once we finally found out that Devon was in a relationship with hot-guy Ryan, we still never really know what he saw in her. He was twenty-three and in a relationship with a very attractive woman his own age. Devon was fifteen and hadn't even hit puberty, due to her gymnastics career.  Meg Abbot really needed to give more information on how that worked, because I JUST DIDN'T BUY IT.

But Civil is Boring

There's another post on November Surprises Blog! For more about Monty's dinner with Evelyn, click here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fact Checking and Foreboding

There's a new post on November Surprises blog! Has someone unwelcome entered into Lucy's life? To find out, read "Fact Checking and Foreboding" by clicking Here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Onesies and Wikileaks

There's a new post on November Surprises Blog! To read about leaks, hacks, and baby clothes, click here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Morning Sickness in America

Finally! There's a new post on November Surprises blog! Read about Lucy's reaction to the RNC - oh - and somebody's PREGNANT!
Click here to find out more!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Holdout is FREE Today!

Tired of snow and winter? The Holdout is FREE for TODAY ONLY, and it's a great cure for winter blues. Download off of Amazon by clicking here.
Posted by Laurel Osterkamp on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

November Surprise is Free Today

Read my most romantic novel, November Surprise, for FREE today! If you think current presidential politics are any crazier than what we've had in the past - well, you're probably right - but take a trip down memory lane nonetheless, in this love story with a liberal, political edge. Download it for FREE by clicking here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The 'C' Words: Conflict, Confrontation, and Caucus

There's a new post on November Surprises Blog. Read "The 'C' Words: Conflict, Confrontation, and Caucus" by clicking here.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

From Reading to Writing

Before I became a writer, I was a reader. All writers are readers; it’s a prerequisite. I received my first training from the wall of YA books at our town library, and my hours of enjoyment only barely exceeded what I learned. The stories I chose were always about a strong female protagonist trying to figure out her place in the world. As I grew up, I never lost my love for reading. That love eventually led to my writing a novel myself, and all my books feature a resilient heroine on a path of self-discovery.

But when I started writing my first novel, I couldn’t shut up my inner-critic. “You can’t do this,” I’d tell myself. “You’re going to make a fool of yourself by trying.” It was a constant diatribe in my mind, until finally I got fed up. “Look,” I told myself. “You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince yourself that you can’t write a novel, or you can just write one.”
I chose option two.

I made a commitment to write 500 words a day. I stuck to that, and after a few months, I had my first draft. Yes, it needed a lot of revision, but it had potential. My first book, Following My Toes, eventually won the Indie Excellence Award for Chick Lit in 2008. It also got more than 20,000 paid downloads on Amazon.

Then, three and a half years ago, I got jury duty. This was two full-length novels and one novella after Following My Toes, and I’d become a writing/publishing junkie. As soon as I got on that jury, I started thinking about how I could use the experience for my next project. I also enjoyed watching the TV show Survivor, so I came up with the idea of a young woman who is embarrassed by her performance on a reality TV show, and gets jury duty when she comes home.

I fell in love with my main character, Robin, and after The Holdout was finished, I couldn’t just stop writing about her. So I wrote The Next Breath – and I used my years of theater training as inspiration, along with a lot of research about cystic fibrosis. But Robin’s story still didn’t feel finished, so I wrote The Standout . During that time I really enjoyed reading books like Gone Girl and Girl on a Train, so I decided to try my hand at writing a thriller. The joy in self-publishing is the freedom to experiment. If I read something that I really like, I can take a crack at writing something in the same genre. Of course, the story and the themes have to be my own; I wouldn’t have it any other way! But like I said, the most valuable writing lessons I’ve ever received have been from reading. When I read something that REALLY WORKS, I examine it, and then I use what I’ve learned in my own writing.

And learning has never been more fun!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Bone Clocks

I had never read anything by David Mitchell before The Bone Clocks and I picked it because Audible had it on sale and I thought it sounded interesting. The story is about Holly Sykes, and when the book begins she is a teenager in 1980s England. She runs away from home after a fight with her mother, and soon encounters all sorts of craziness. It turns out that Holly is a "singular" sort of young lady, meaning that she has psychic abilities and she's attracted forces of both good and evil.

Then her younger brother Jacko goes missing, which is really the inciting incident of the whole story, for Jacko's disappearance sets a much broader battle into motion, although it will take years for this battle to come to fruition.

The first chapter is from Holly's POV, which I liked quite a bit. Mitchell did a good job of writing in a teen girl's voice, and Holly is tough, no-nonsense, yet very likable. The other chapters are all from other character's POVs, until the end, when it switches back to a 74-year-old Holly living in a post apocalypse Ireland. Although it's not always clear at the beginning of each chapter, eventually the reader understands what the new narrator's connection is with Holly, and how their interactions with her seems to bring out the best of their personalites.

There is also always a bigger theme, about life and death, and the meaning of our daily actions and interactions. We are all "bone clocks" - ticking time bombs, waiting to die. But at what price comes immortality? As Holly discovers, it is our love and generosity, and our willingness to sacrifice for others, that gives life meaning, and that's something that all the characters must contemplate at some point in this epic novel.

I really liked The Bone Clocks. David Mitchell has defied genre by making it part fantasy, part drama, and part social commentary. His characters are not always likable (although Cripsin Hershey really grew on me) but they are always redeemable. While I started out listening to it on audio, eventually I switched to reading it, and I'm glad I did. There were many passages I read over and over, because they left me with a lot to think about. I saw one book review headline, that The Bone Clocks is mostly empty calories, but I couldn't disagree more. It's not difficult reading, but after you ingest it, you're full for a long time.