Guest Post: Fayette Fox, Author of “The Deception Artist”

How to Write from a Kid’s POV
By Fayette Fox

There’s a wonderful tradition of novels for adults written from kids’ points of view. Think “Catcher in the Rye,” “The Poisonwood Bible,” and “Room”. For these books to work, they need compelling stories and child narrators whose voices ring true.The Deception Artist Front Cover-US-small.v2 (2)

My novel, “The Deception Artist” is told from the perspective of Ivy, an eight-year-old with a vivid imagination, who lies so people will like her. Literary fiction for adults, it’s set in the Bay Area during the recession of the 1980s. Basically, I lifted the time and place from my own childhood and used it as a backdrop for my fictional characters and crafted plot.

During the five years I spent writing my novel, I worked hard to get Ivy’s voice right. Reviewers and readers seem to universally love Ivy, so I must be on to something.

Here are my best tips to help you write convincingly from a kid’s point of view.

Remember to Play and Play to Remember – Our first permanent memories form around age three, but as adults we seem to remember wildly different amounts of our childhoods. Personally, I remember a lot from being a kid and I believe that’s helped me create authentic child characters. You can try and trigger memories by looking at old photos. Talk with people about their childhoods. Do things you used to do as a kid. Blow bubbles in your milk, make chalk drawings on the sidewalk, sculpt with Play-Doh, build a pillow fort. Be silly and see what happens. Also spend time around kids. When I was writing my novel, I arranged to spend a day observing a third grade class at a local elementary school.

Vocab Test – In my novel I used simple language for Ivy’s thoughts, and went even simpler for her spoken words. Inevitably, some big words are going to sneak into your writing. As you revise, weed out words your character wouldn’t know. Obviously this has to do with their age and who they are a character. A five-year-old who lives in an 11’x11’ shed will have a different vocabulary from a 14-year-old American on a missionary trip in the Belgian Congo.

Treat Your Character with Respect – Your child narrator will probably have worries that look very different from your own, but they are real for them. Treating your character with respect means meeting them where they are, and acknowledging their emotions. If you think they’re being silly, your readers will too. And worse, they might not want to read about them.

Remember the Emotion – Part of childhood is a sense of powerlessness and not understanding a lot of what’s going on around you. In my novel, Ivy feels upset hearing her parents fighting and worries they might divorce. Additionally, kids are often obsessed with fairness. This can light a fire in their belly, making them to fight for their beliefs. Ivy’s brother, Brice, a budding animal rights activist, risks getting grounded by refusing to eat veal.

Kid Logic – When Brice is sick in the hospital, Ivy wants to move into his room because he’s not using it and it’s a waste of a good room. When their dad loses his job, Ivy cuts holes in all her new clothes so her mom won’t be able to return them. In my novel there’s a lot of humor and bittersweet moments around kid logic. As you get to know your child protagonist, imagine how they make sense of their world. These “discoveries” will help your character come to life.

Kids are Observant – Their worlds are smaller and they notice things we might not even see. I remember taking great pleasure poking around logs for bugs and lizards. Kids also absorb obscure facts at school, we might have forgotten. These details will help your character feel real.

Read Your Work Out Loud – Okay, this is actually important for all writing, but I think it’s especially key when you’re writing from a kid’s point of view. Listen to the sounds and the rhythm of your words. If you’re not sure it’s right, spend time around a friend’s kids. Take notes on how they talk and behave.

Good luck and let me know how that pillow fort turns out!

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Fayette Fox will appear at Village House of Books on July 25th from 1:00pm-3:00pm. Join us for a meet ‘n’ greet and a chance to chat with Fayette about her novel and writing!

Photo of Fayette taken by Dusty Olson.

Fayette is a professional freelance writer. Her novel, “The Deception Artist” was published in North America in March by Roaring Forties Press, after initially being published in the UK in 2013 by Myriad Editions. The book was shortlisted for Amazon Rising Stars and the First Book Award ebooks by Sainsbury’s.

Fayette is the Co-Founder of My Love Ninja, a boutique OkCupid profile makeover service. She is a former commissioning editor for Lonely Planet Publications. She holds an MA in Publishing from the London College of Communication and a BA in Creative Writing from Hampshire College. Fayette has trekked the Nepalese Himalayas, taught sex-ed to teenage girls in India, harvested pumpkins on an organic farm in the Netherlands, radio-tracked echidnas in Australia, and been attacked by a giant, Japanese centipede. (She survived.) You can learn more on her website here.


Guest Post: Cara Black, author of the Aimee Leduc mystery series

20 Mistakes to Avoid in Paris

by Cara Black, originally published December 17th, 2013


1. Missing the last Metro home
Full taxi’s pass you by, you face a long walk home


2. Heels on cobblestones – unless you’re Parisian + have grown up doing this.


3. Sacre Coeur pickpocket petition scams – avoid them and go up the back stairs

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4. Bicycling the rond-point Bastille – you value your life, right?


5. Sales clerks on the Rue St Honoré – only if you’re really buying that Vuitton should you face them

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6. Demonstrations + strikes – forewarned is knowledge – check before leaving the house or you might have no bus or Metro to catch

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7. Side stepping suspicious streams on the pavement/trottoir – you get the reason, non?

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8. Les soldes/ The Sales in January and June – only if you’re obsessed, determined + have your game plan in place should you enter the fray at Galleries Lafayette

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9. Touching the fruit at greengrocers – just don’t

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10. Fishing in the Canal St Martin – it’s very shallow and yet they find bodies once in awhile

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11. Paris Plages – your call if you want to slap on oil and sardine crunch with the Parisians who couldn’t get out of Paris in August

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12. Driving through Sunday manifestations/strikes – again, you value your life, right?

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13. Not greeting shop assistants when you enter and leave – an expected common courtesy

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14. Flashing an iPhone at Metro stations – that’s if you want to keep it


15. Puces St Ouen – instead go to Porte de Vanves fleamarket more locals and deals

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16. Pigeons – hard to avoid but keep extra cafe napkins in pocket to alleviate those white plops

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17. Late night kebab – eh, go for the frites

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18. Sunbaking on the Seine – see #11 Paris Plages + #16 Pigeons

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19. Lining up for the Louvre – find the back entrance and enter via the Pyramid

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20. Dog deficit – hop, skip + jump



Any questions?

Cara Black will be appearing at Village House of Books on July 11th from 1:00pm-3:00pm.  Join us for a meet ‘n’ greet and a chance to chat with Cara about her novels!


Guest Post: Eric Henze, author of ‘A Family Guide to the Grand Circle National Parks’

Eric Henze will be joining us at Village House of Books on Saturday, May 23rd at 1:00 pm.  Come on by and say hello!

Writing for the Road

by Eric Henze

When I wrote my first book, The Complete Guide to Wilder Ranch State Park, I received the same feedback from two people that really confounded me. They said they read my guide book from cover to cover. This intrigued me (and confused me a little) because, well, it’s a guide book. It was meant to guide, not entertain.

With my second book, A Family Guide to the Grand Circle National Parks, I saw an opportunity to explore this “voice” part a bit. In this travel guide, I describe a circular road trip to seven of the most scenic national parks in the United States. Now these parks are relatively close to one another, but still, most of them were about 150 miles apart. I thought, “What if I gave the reader something that entertained them while they drove between each park?” This thought turned into nine stories of family adventure, using characterizations of my own family and based on actual events when we traveled this same route.

The stories started out as pure satire. However, just as one finds a deeper sense of relaxation and begins to regain their true sense of self while on vacation, the stories too took on deeper, more soul enriching topics farther into the guide. In the end, whether funny, sad or thought provoking, the stories took on a life of their own and became part of the travel guide.

I wanted to share an excerpt from one of the stories here in this post. It is primarily about my youngest son Bryce. The story also contains myself, his older brother Everest, and my wife Angela. Here we go.. Enjoy!

an excerpt from “Where’s Bryce?”…

…“When is this blasted shuttle going to get to the next stop?” she asked. I had been married long enough to know not to answer rhetorical questions as they only encouraged additional questions of an unanswerable nature.

“We’re going to miss it. We are going to miss the talk,” she said, looking ahead of the bus for anything that would indicate Inspiration Point was close.

“I’m sure we will catch most of it, if not all of it,” I said calmly. She was only being Type A out of love for her son.DSC_0454

“What if they run out of seating and we miss the whole thing?”

“We won’t miss it dear, don’t worry.” I saw a sign. “Look, we’re here.”

As the shuttle pulled to the stop, everyone stood up in preparation to disembark. Ang helped lobby the kids for a quick exit. She clapped her hands to rally their attention and said, “Okay kids, get your water bottles back in your packs. Let’s get ready to go. We don’t want to miss the ranger talk.”

The kids gathered their stuff as the bus pulled up. We all got off the shuttle in a manner of hurried patience as we melded with the crowd around us. Everyone seemed to be getting off the shuttle at this stop. I watched the kids get off and then ran to catch up with Ang, who was speed walking to the edge of the canyon.

“Come on! We are going to miss it!” she said loudly to the people in front of her. No time to turn around for this woman. She was going to make this talk.

“Okay, okay! Kids, come on.” I motioned for Ev to take the lead in front of me. “Come on, Ev.”

“Sure, Dad”, and then with a slight pause Everest added, “Dad, where’s Bryce?” I turned around to see the shuttle bus driving away and then turned my attention to the crowd, quickly surveying it. Bryce was not with us. Then as the shuttle was pulling out of reach I saw him, on the bus.

“Ang! We left Bryce on the bus!”

“No we didn’t, he got off with me.”

“He’s not here, dear. He must have gotten back on the bus.”

Ang stopped dead in her tracks so fast everyone behind her had to quickly adjust to avoid running into her. “What?!” she exclaimed.

“He’s not here.” I tried to sound calming, as if that would help.

“Eric! BB! Oh my God! BB’s lost! We need to find him!”

“I’ll go see when the next shuttle’s coming! See if you can find someone.” I ran over to a kiosk that showed the shuttle times. Another shuttle would come in less than 10 minutes.

Ang saw the ranger who was going to give the geology talk. She stopped him in his tracks and said in a panicked flurry of words, “Excuse me! You have to help me please! We’ve lost Bryce! We’ve lost our Bryce!”

The ranger looked at her confused and took a step back. “I’m sorry, ma’am. You’ve lost Bryce?”

“Yes! Where’s Bryce? Where’s Bryce! We’ve lost Bryce!” she said in a frantic Southern undertone.

The ranger maintained composure. “Not to worry, ma’am, lots of people get disoriented up here. Bryce is right over there.” The ranger pointed to Bryce Canyon. “I’m pretty sure it’s not lost.”

Ang looked briefly at where he pointed and then turned right back to the ranger. “What! No! You don’t understand! Listen! Bryce is gone!”

“Ma’am, I ah…” the ranger looked confused and now a little concerned at my wife’s odd behavior. A couple of tourists gathered to help calm Angela down by repeatedly pointing to the rim of Bryce Canyon and saying, “Bryce is right there! Bryce is right there!”

“I’m not looking for the stupid canyon, I’m looking for Bryce! My Bryce!” she exclaimed.

Everest quickly stepped in. “My brother’s name is Bryce and he got back on the shuttle,” he said, trying to help.

“Please! He’s only nine years old!” she cried.

“Oh! You have a son named Bryce!”

“That’s what I’ve been saying! Bryce David! He’s lost on the shuttle!”

By this time a small crowd had gathered around my wife to either help or try to make sense of the lost crazy woman. I ran back from the kiosk with a plan to get on the next shuttle and have Ang stay put with Ev. If Bryce got off, I would find him. If he stayed on the shuttle, it would eventually return to Inspiration Point.

This proved unnecessary thanks to the ranger’s walkie-talkie. Once the ranger understood that we were indeed looking for our son Bryce, he called the shuttle drivers. After a short back and forth between the drivers and the ranger, there was a sigh of relief. They found him.

I returned as the ranger said into his walkie-talkie, “Put him at Table 3.”

“Table 3?” I asked.

“You’ll find him at Bryce Lodge. Take the next shuttle and get off at the lodge and find the hostess. Her name is Phyllis. Don’t worry, we have a system. You aren’t the first parents to lose your child in Bryce Canyon, but I have to say you are the first to lose one named after Bryce Canyon.”

My wife was profoundly grateful. “Thank you! Thank you so much. I’m so glad you found him! I’m sorry I got so excited. Bryce is a Celtic name, you know.”

“I’m just glad we found him ma’am. Sorry for not understanding you at first,” he chuckled. We were still a little too shaken up to laugh at that point, though it was the topic well into the evening of how we lost Bryce in Bryce and how only Bryce could pull that off.

We found our B Bear at Bryce Canyon Lodge enjoying a hot fudge sundae. He was nonplussed at the situation. “Hey, Mom” he said calmly, giving a short wave.

“We normally just give them a scoop of ice cream,” the hostess said. She was a kind maternal woman. “But he was so cute; I gave him a full hot fudge sundae. I hope you don’t mind. I couldn’t help but spoil him a little. Unless a child is closer to the visitor center, they drop him off here at the lodge. He said he forgot his junior ranger book and that he was named after the park and didn’t want to not miss getting his junior ranger badge. You had quite an adventure today, didn’t you Bryce?” She patted him on the head.

Bryce took another bite of hot fudge. “Ummmm. I guess so. I’m sorry, Mom! I just wanted to get my badge!”

“BB! We were worried sick about you!” Ang exclaimed, hugging him and then petting his hair.

“Sorry Bro Bro, were you scared?” Everest asked.

“No, not really. They just asked if there was a Bryce Henze on the bus and I said yes and they put me here and gave me ice cream. I figure it’s because I’m, well, you know, we’re in Bryce Cannon and I’m named Bryce, just like the cannon.” He then pointed at the hostess. “She told me I was lost and should be happy that they found me, but come on, guys! I would have just taken the shuttle in a circle back to where you were. It’s not like I’m 4!”

Ang chuckled and hugged her little man. “Bryce, what am I going to do with you? You are going to be the death of me.”

“Me too!” Everest stated. “I was freaking out!” He let out a big sigh and piled onto mom’s hug.

I joined in on the group hug. I was so glad we had found our little guy.

“B Bear,” I thought. “Our skinny little bundle of chaos, what are we going to do with you indeed.”

About the Author

Eric Henze began his writing career at the age of twelve with a sci fi short titled “5:15”, tackling a plot AbouttheAuthoraround a timepiece that could end the world. His passion for hiking started in Sedona, Arizona where he lived in his youth. It expanded to peak bagging in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and then the Andes of South America, where he lived as a Peace Corp volunteer for two years, climbing many of the peaks of Ecuador and Peru. A highlight was climbing Sangay, an active volcano that often shoots VW size rocks at climbers to maintain their attention. In his own words, “It was a delight”.

His passions for writing, hiking and adventure have led to a series of guidebooks for both the National Park Service and the California State Parks. A portion of the proceeds of all of his books go towards directly supporting these parks. His latest work is titled “A Family Guide to the Grand Circle National Parks”, a travel companion for the working family looking to explore seven great southwest national parks.

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Guest Post: Diane Lynn Collman, author of ‘Off Her Rocker’

A Letter From Diane

A Few Words to the Audience…

Dear Gentle Reader,

I have always dreamed of writing a novel –the kind of tale I wish I could read: one which appeals to both young and old, women and men, exquisitely written though easy to read, with characters that inhabit you while simultaneously coaxing you to think about your own life and what you want out of it; a story that makes you laugh out loud, cry, and gives you goose bumps; something that doesn’t take too much of your time–but just might stay with you for a lifetime.diane

And I have had a true love of words for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s a word search, crossword puzzle or scrambler at the back of a children’s menu, I delight in playing with words. When I was growing up my father, whose own vocabulary is extensive, would use a word at dinner, such as ‘pugnacious’, and then refuse to tell us its meaning; rather insist we leave the table, grab a dictionary and look it up for ourselves. Naturally I never forgot its meaning, and in fact used it on a playground bully the following school day.

I majored in English Literature in college–so obviously I have done my share of reading– and while I generally have always loved a good book, I think I was really there more for the words. When I went to lecture, I would listen very keenly to my professors’ dialogues, eager to jot down a new word or two I could adopt as my own. Now I have Google!

Many years later I fell in love with, and then stumbled into teaching, a form of hatha yoga. Because of circumstances that were quite by ‘accident’, I had no formal training and as such, I was forced to learn how to be an instructor on the fly. What I quickly discovered was how important it was for me to use my words selectively, compellingly, in order to teach the most efficient and inspiring ninety- minute sessions possible–that is, to tell the best story.

When I teach a yoga class I also use music to its greatest effect and am extremely fussy about my playlists, and I devised a similar technique to assist myself in the writing process: I’d choose a contemporary, upbeat song, such as “La La La” by Naughty Boy with Sam Smith and then listen to something quieter, more soulful, like “Youth” by Daughter, just to be sure a scene I was constructing worked with both moods. I wanted my novel to have a timeless feel despite its being mainly a period piece. (In fact, you may want to re-read the final page of OFF HER ROCKER while playing “Youth” in the background–and I highly recommend Sam Smith’s acoustic version of “Latch” for the love scene; if this book is ever turned into a film, I will insist upon its use for Hadley and Ari’s night of passion).

offherrockerI want to share with you here that I am a survivor of one of the rarest forms of pancreatic tumors, (the same kind of tumor as Steve Jobs had; coincidentally, I taught hot yoga on several occasions at Apple), and throughout my health scare and lengthy convalescence I had a lot of time on my hands, but not much energy. Books became some of my best friends and partners in healing. The odds of surviving a neuroendocrine tumor to the pancreas are sobering–worse than surviving an airplane crash; after this brush with death, I’ve tried to never take my life for granted, and writing a book absolutely went to the top of my bucket list.

So when I thought I had conceived a hauntingly beautiful, layered story, I sat on a stool, lotus-style, at the desk in my den nearly every day for six months writing…and writing. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing; too often I’d be in the shower and have to dash, dripping wet, across our house to jot something down before it was lost to me, or gotten into bed anxious for a good night’s sleep only to find the characters swirling over my head, summoning me back up to play with them. Many times the bills were paid late: there was no way I was getting up from something this much fun just to go off to the Post Office for some stamps, and I virtually lived in one pair of black sweats. My husband bought me a lounging outfit for my last Birthday and the pants of it now have holes throughout and are frayed at the ends; I’ve literally worn them out while writing.

Hadley, Ari and Perry have become a part of me; they are as real to me as the fingers of my own hand. Now that I have finished my novel I am going to miss each of them–terribly. I hope you enjoyed OFF HER ROCKER as much as I enjoyed writing it, because it was the most fun I have ever had on my own. The experience felt very similar to reading a fantastic book, where you simultaneously can’t wait to find what happens–yet never want it to come to an end. I hope you found the themes of devastation, mental anguish, moral dilemma, and true love resonating; my version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” meets “Splendor in the Grass” with shade of “Stairway to Heaven”. I hope I left you, by the very last word, utterly satisfied, yet panting for more. And I thank you, most humbly, for your time; I have no doubt it is precious.

Oh–I recently purchased a soft black jumpsuit; perhaps it is time to sit down and begin writing novel number two!


Diane Lynn Collman appeared at Village House of Books on May 2nd  as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration!  Thank you to everyone who came to say hello to Diane and our other local authors!


Guest Post: Andrea Lochen, author of ‘Imaginary Things’

Ten Most Memorable Moms in New Fiction
by Andrea Lochen

What better time of year than Mother’s Day to showcase some of the most memorable fictional mothers in some of the best new novels? From loving, supportive mothers to complex, trailblazing mothers to selfish, vindictive mothers, this list has it all!

1) The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White (Lake Union, July 2015)
Ella Fitzwilliam, the mom in THE PERFECT SON, quit a successful career in jewelry design to be full-time parent, mental health coach, and advocate for her son, Harry, who has a soup of issues that include Tourette syndrome. She has devoted 17 years of her life to his therapy, to educating teachers, to being Harry’s emotional rock and giving him the confidence he needs to be Harry. Thanks to her, Harry is comfortable in his own skin, even when people stare. After Ella has a major heart attack in the opening chapter, her love for Harry tethers her to life. But as she recovers, she discovers the hardest parenting lesson of all: to let go.

2) Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb (Plume, January 2015)
In RODIN’S LOVER, Camille’s mother, Louise Claudel, is spiteful, jealous, and disapproving of Camille’s pursuit to become a female sculptor in the 1880s. She also shows signs of mental illness. Because of this relationship, Camille struggles with all of her female relationships the rest of her life, and ultimately, to prove to her mother that she’s truly talented.

3) Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen (Astor + Blue Editions, April 2015)
In IMAGINARY THINGS, young single mother Anna Jennings has a unique power that most parents only dream of—the ability to see her four-year-old son’s imagination come to life. But when David’s imaginary friends turn dark and threatening, Anna must learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon, what his friends truly represent, and how best to protect him.

4) The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister (Sourcebooks, January 2015)
In THE MAGICIAN’S LIE, Arden’s mother is remarkable both for what she does and what she doesn’t do. As a young woman, she bears a child out of wedlock and runs away with her music teacher, never fearing the consequences. But later in life, her nerve fails her—just when her daughter needs her most.

5) Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer (Putnam, 2014)
In FIVE DAYS LEFT, Mara Nichols is, in some ways, a typical mother: she loves her daughter fiercely, thinks about her constantly and goes to great lengths to balance her high-stress legal career with her daughter’s needs. But there are two ways in which Mara isn’t typical at all. First, she adopted her daughter from India, making good on a lifelong promise to rescue a baby from the same orphanage where Mara herself lived decades ago. And second, when Mara is diagnosed with a fatal, incurable illness that will render her unable to walk, talk or even feed herself, she has to make the kind of parenting choice none of us wants to consider—would my child be better off if I were no longer alive?

6) House Broken by Sonja Yoerg (Penguin/NAL, January 2015)
In HOUSE BROKEN, Helen Riley has a habit of leaving her grown children to cope with her vodka-fueled disasters. She has her reasons, but they’re buried deep, and stem from secrets too painful to remember and, perhaps, too terrible to forgive.

7) You Were Meant for Me by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Penguin/NAL, 2014)
In YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME, having a baby is the furthest thing from Miranda Berenzweig’s mind. She’s newly single after a bad break up, and focused on her promotion at work, her friends and getting her life back on track. Then one frigid March night she finds a newborn infant in a NYC subway and even after taking the baby to the police, can’t get the baby out of her mind. At the suggestion of the family court judge assigned to the case, Miranda begins adoption proceedings. But her plans—as well as her hopes and dreams—are derailed when the baby’s biological father surfaces, wanting to claim his child. The way she handles this unforeseen turn of events is what makes Miranda a truly memorable mother.

8) The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft (Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2015)
In THE FAR END OF HAPPY, Ronnie has hung in there as long as she can during her husband’s decline into depression, spending issues, and alcoholism and he will not accept her attempts to get him professional help. She is not a leaver, but can’t bear for her sons to witness the further deterioration of the marriage. She determines to divorce—and on the day he has promised to move out, he instead arms himself, holes up inside a building on the property, and stands off against police. When late in the day the police ask Ronnie if she’ll appeal to him one last time over the bullhorn, she must decide: with the stakes so high, will she try one last time to save her husband’s life? Or will her need to protect her sons and her own growing sense of self win out?

9) Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (Washington Square Press, 2014)
In YOUR PERFECT LIFE, long-time friends, Rachel and Casey wake up the morning after their twenty year high school reunion to discover they’ve switched bodies. Casey is single with no children before becoming an instant mom to Rachel’s two teenagers and baby. Despite her lack of experience as a parent, and her often comedic missteps with the baby in particular (think: diaper blow outs and sudden sleep deprivation) Casey’s fresh perspective on her new role helps her connect with each of the children in a very different way than Rachel. And when the oldest, Audrey, is almost date raped at her prom, it is Casey’s strength that she draws from an experience in her own past that ultimately pulls Audrey through. Although it is hard for Rachel to watch her best friend take care of Audrey when she so desperately wants to, she realizes that Casey can help her daughter in a way she can’t. And Casey discovers she might have what it takes to be a mom to her own children someday.

10) The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman (Bantam, 2013)
Elizabeth Bohlinger, the mother in THE LIFE LIST, is actually deceased. But she still has a big presence in her daughter’s life—some may say too big! With heartfelt letters, Elizabeth guides her daughter, Brett, on a journey to complete the life list of wishes Brett made when she was just a teen. Like many mothers, Elizabeth has an uncanny ability to see into her daughter’s heart, exposing buried desires Brett has long forgotten.

Andrea Lochen is a University of Michigan MFA graduate. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Berkley, 2013), won a Hopwood Award for the Novel prior to its publication. She has served as fiction editor of The Madison Review and taught writing at the University of Michigan. She currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, where she was recently awarded UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her second novel, Imaginary Things (Astor + Blue Editions, 2015) is recently released and has garnered wonderful praise. With features on Barnes & Noble.com, Huffington Post, and Brit + Co., her work is being introduced to thousands of new readers. Andrea currently lives in Madison with her husband and daughter and is at work on her third novel. For more information visit www.andrealochen.com


Guest Post: Kathleen Ann Gonzalez, author of ‘A Beautiful Woman in Venice’

T-Rex Versus the Pterodactyl: AKA Traditional Publishing Versus Self-Publishing

By Kathleen Ann Gonzalez

20130207__salm0208casanova~1_GALLERYI am on the cusp of self-publishing my fourth book, A Beautiful Woman in Venice, a collection of biographies about remarkable Venetian women. I’ve made a leap: I will not even seek a traditional American publisher for this book. It exhausts me, and even angers me a bit, to consider writing dozens of query letters. The traditional publishing industry is a behemoth T-Rex, stomping through the trees and acting like it’s the only dino in the forest.

Why have I changed my thinking? Because at this point in my own knowledge base and abilities, and within the changing world of publishing, I can do the job better on my own. Like a pterodactyl, I have a powerful set of strengths and talents, a nimbleness not possessed by the T-Rex.

Of course, it has taken me a couple decades of writing and publishing to get here. My first publication came soon after college, when a story I had submitted there won a prize and was later picked up for an anthology. I even got to do some bookstore events, and that small success emboldened me to pursue writing short pieces for publication in magazines and newspapers, plus a couple other essays published in anthologies. I eventually decided I had a book in me in 1996, though after five years of writing and revising, and another couple years of collecting rejection letters from a couple hundred agents and publishers, I threw in the towel and self-published. I had a little sign on my wall: “Each NO is one step closer to a YES.” But this sign misrepresented my experience. Instead of finally hearing Yes from someone else, I created that Yes for myself.

ABWIV-coverAnd yes, that was tough, designing a book cover, finding a printer, formatting a book, creating a website, and then convincing bookstores and local groups to let me share my fledgling with them. I kept thinking I just needed to pitch to that one audience member who was Oprah’s best friend, and I’d get on her show, and the rest would be a yellow brick road to fame and fortune. When that didn’t happen, I sulked. If I really were a pterodactyl, I might have eaten some raw flesh at that point.

But then I began to notice something. I really enjoyed doing events to promote my book Free Gondola Ride, which was a memoir about spending a summer with Venice’s gondoliers. I heard others’ fond reminiscences, their travel tales, their sighs of longing for a romantic adventure. And I also got compliments from people who enjoyed my writing, my story, my characterization. I realized that publishing a book is also about connecting with people—if I let it be about that.

After that realization, things got easier and more enjoyable. I self-published a book about Camp Everytown with the goal that it could be used as a fundraiser to send teens to this anti-prejudice camp. Then I wrote another book about Venice, this time tracing the locations that Giacomo Casanova, the famed lover, lived and loved in the city. Once again I tried to secure an agent and publisher, and once again I gave up, determined to publish on my own. pb Seductive Venice final

Because here is what I learned from the publishers I talked to: They still expected me to do virtually all my own marketing; they wanted to change and control the final book; they didn’t think they could reach the right audience for my subject; they wanted to take well over a year to produce a book; and they wanted to charge me two to three times the amount that I could do it for myself.

While writing this book, Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps, I also wrote three chapters that were included in a book about teaching high school English, published by Pearson. Living through the process of working with a major publisher helped me see anew how much of the writing process is eventually taken away from the writer. And then a lovely thing happened: I found a small press in Venice, Supernova Edizione, who published my Casanova book. I had found that elusive creature, the Publisherasaurus, and suddenly I dropped all the pressure off myself to find an American publisher.

So with A Beautiful Woman in Venice, I’m going straight to print on my own. My life partner RJ and I have started our own imprint called Ca’ Specchio, named for the many mirrors in our house, and he formats the books and creates cover art. I can write the book, design and print it, and market it myself for a low price and still make enough to cover my costs and pay for the next book.

At this point I don’t expect to make it onto Oprah (good thing, since the show is extinct!). I’m content, no, even excited and often thrilled, to sell books myself at local events and meet the people who will be reading my book. I’ll admit that my heart races to see my book in the stores in Italy and California, and I’ll always support our local bookstores here who still make it possible for writers like me to publish and share my ideas. But I’ll no longer be intimidated by the T-Rex, thinking it’s the only master of the land.

Kathleen Gonzalez was one of the authors who appeared at Village House of Books on May 2nd  as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration!  Thank you to everyone who came out and said hello!


Guest Post: Shelley Buck, author of ‘Floating Point’

A First Book at 65 – Why Not?

by Shelley Buck

It’s never too late to follow a life’s dream, as I discovered when I finally sat down to write Floating Point.ShelleyBuck360x360

All my life I’ve known I wanted to write books. But there were other things: a child, a husband, a house to buy, work to attend to, dirty dishes, even. Also, I’m shy, and even though I was a feminist, a journalist, and later a professor teaching writing, tooting my horn for my own needs came hard.

And then we moved to a boat. While there was plenty to repair, I wasn’t handy or good at it. Other family members took on these tasks.

Living aboard a boat changed my perception of what a home meant: In a galley a quarter the size of the usual cubicle, there wasn’t much opportunity to do gourmet cooking. Dusting became easy in a salon living space of less than a hundred square feet. I couldn’t, even if I desired, shuffle the furniture around. Almost everything was built in. With only three plates and a handful of cups, there was little temptation to squander my days washing dishes.

FLOATINGPOINTtallcvr10-6I walked the dog out on the wetlands paths, and while my son was at school, I wrote.

And eventually there was a book.

I was working. It took time to finish and edit up the book. Time to format it for publication, time to learn web design skills for promotion, time to find an editor, a community, and the encouragement to proceed, time to learn about eBooks and how the opportunity for online publication might streamline the process. I had been waiting all my life for permission to write. Now, I decided to give myself permission to publish, too. And Floating Point was born.

Here’s a question for all of you readers: What are your dreams? What are you doing to get there? It’s never too late to start!

Email me:


You can find additional blog posts from Shelley Buck and other West Coast authors at ePicaro.com.

Shelley Buck will be appearing at Village House of Books on May 2nd at 3:00 pm as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration! Come say hello to Shelley and our other local authors that we will be featuring throughout the day!


Guest Post: Jan Pitcher, author of ‘Where Do the Stars Go?’


Where Do The Stars Go?

by artist/author Jan Pitcher

8 or 9 years ago,
I decided I wanted to paint like the Pre-Raphaelites.


But this is what happened, instead:


Then, my most wise and lovely long-time neighbor, a fellow artist, came over for an impromtu critique: “Wonderful! – she said. To which I emphatically replied: “NO! – just look at all this color; this picture I’ve made is so bright and so simple and I wanted to paint like the Pre-Raphaelites!” To which she calmly replied: “Just paint like Jan, and let it rip.” Afterwards, my then 39 year old son, another trusted critiquer, added: “Mom, this painting looks like it belongs in a childrens’ book – why don’t you write one – you’ve always talked about doing that.”

So, I did.

And that is how Where Do the Stars Go? – my picture book for children of all ages got its start. It contains 11 original (un-Pre-Raphaelite) paintings, which illustrate simple rhyming verses that wonder what might happen to the stars when nigthtime turns to day. Like, where do the stars go? Do they become baby deer dapples, or sparkles on the bay? Or, when nighttime is all through, do they turn into happy things you do? Such a curiosity.

Spoiler alert: There’s a good chance it will continue to be a mystery …

Jan Pitcher will be appearing at Village House of Books on May 2nd at 12:00 pm as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration! Come say hello to Jan and our other local authors that we will be featuring throughout the day!


Guest Post: A. R. Silverberry, Author of ‘The Stream’

Fables and Allegorical Tales: Something for Everyone

by A. R. Silverberry

Some of the most endearing stories fall in the category of fables, parables, and allegories, perhaps, because they so Author Photo 2 198x300powerfully convey the deepest ideas and emotions about the human condition. Aesop’s fables, heard in childhood, sink deep into our psyches and shape our actions. As a writer who works slowly—a chapter from one of my novels took twenty-nine drafts!—The Tortoise and the Hare still brings me comfort. It’s okay to go slow. The Boy Who Cried Wolf carries an undeniable ring of truth. Lose the trust of others, and we lose big time.

Fables don’t have to just be for children, and they don’t have to just include animals, though traditionally the fable is defined that way. For example, the director of the film, Kate and Leopold, described the story as a modern fable about love as a leap into the unknown. A number of modern writers have penned fables for adults. Think of Thurber’s Fables For Our Time and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The wonder of these tales is how we absorb their message seemingly through our pores. Little thinking is required; understanding is instantaneous.

While the fable delivers a succinct, clear message, the allegorical novel is subtler, telling the story on two levels: literal and figurative. The reader is in for a treat. She can read the story purely for enjoyment, or she can delve into the story’s deeper meaning. Alice and Wonderland is an example of an allegorical novel. For pure fun, it’s the adventure of a girl entering a strange land by going down a rabbit hole. Beneath the adventure is a story replete with symbols and figures of speech, and scholars have found parallels to politics, Victorian culture, and mathematics, to name a few. We’ll never exhaust what can be found in the book!

Stream Small Cover 2I think of my novel, The Stream, as both fable and allegorical novel. It can be read purely as an adventure about survival. Beneath that story runs another story, bound up in the metaphor of a stream. The story raises questions about how one finds meaning in life when things constantly change. It raises questions about how to cope with the devastating blows reality throws at us, how to go on, how to build a life. Like many allegorical novels, the characters of the story are also symbols. The hero, Wend, symbolizes the innocent state we’re all in as we enter the flux of life. The stream itself is both a character and symbol: giver and taker, creator and destroyer.

The great thing about fables and allegories is that you don’t have to work if you don’t want to. You can simply sit back and enjoy the ride, let the characters and plot entertain you, and feel the emotional fulfillment the story promises. But if you want to delve for gems, if you want to think and discover, it’s all there, waiting for your questing mind.

The Stream is a Shelf Unbound Notable Book in Literary Fiction, a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award Finalist, and a da Vinci Eye Finalist.

“Fables and Allegorical Tales” was originally published as a guest post on author Kathie Shoop’s blog on 6/6/14. Reposted with permission.

A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, WYNDANO’S CLOAK, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. THE STREAM is his second novel. Follow him on his website, Twitter, and Facebook.

A. R. Silverberry will be appearing at Village House of Books on May 2nd at 2:00 pm as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration! Come say hello to A. R. and our other local authors that we will be featuring throughout the day!


Guest Post: Ann Gelder, author of ‘Bigfoot and the Baby’

Bigfoot, the Baby, and Bona Fide Books

by Ann Gelder

BigfootAndBaby_Cvr_F_webLast summer, I took part in a panel called “Breakthrough Novelists” at Litquake Palo Alto. Even before the event began, it became clear that “breakthrough” meant something different for each of us. Another panelist was Edan Lepucki, whose new book, California, had rocketed up the best-seller list upon Stephen Colbert’s enthusiastic endorsement. The other two, Stuart Rojstaczer and Christina Nichols, had published debut novels with large-to-midsize presses. Whereas my first novel, Bigfoot and the Baby, had been gently ushered into existence by Bona Fide Books—a newish, very small press in South Lake Tahoe. My book was certainly a breakthrough for me, but for the rest of the literary world, not so much.

Yet I like to think that during this very panel, I created a breakthrough moment for at least a few audience members. During the Q and A, someone asked each of us to explain how we got our agents. When Edan handed me the microphone, I said, “I don’t have an agent,” and prepared to pass the verbal torch.

“Wait!” shouted several members of the crowd. “Then how did you get published?”

That’s when I realized that many people, even those in the literary “know,” don’t know much about small presses. For most people, publishing seems to mean either Random Penguin, or, these days, Amazon and Kindle. It means agents and New York—or else endlessly tweeting five-star reviews of your 99-cent e-book. There is no middle ground.

And so, backed up by Edan, who had published a novella with a small press, I took a few moments to sing the praises of small-press publishing. Yes, I said, many small presses consider un-agented submissions. (See the Poets and Writers small-press database for a list of presses and their policies.) Yes, they take chances that larger publishers won’t—in fact, they exist to fill the niches that bigger, more-risk-averse enterprises can’t. They’re usually run by people who passionately love a certain kind of book, and want to get these books into readers’ hands. They operate on shoestring budgets, and their marketing departments consist largely of you, your editor, and your combined social media skills. Neither you nor the publisher will make any money to speak of.

But if you go the small-press route, you are more likely than not to have a uniquely wonderful time. At least I did. Bona Fide’s publisher, Kim Wyatt, cares about books not only as reading experiences, but as art objects. (In fact, she runs printmaking and book-arts clubs out of the Bona Fide office.) That meant my book had a beautiful and (in my opinion) perfect cover, lovely paper, and a gorgeous, eminently readable font. It underwent obsessive copy-editing and proofing. It was never deeply discounted or given away in huge batches. In short, my book, my baby, was loved from day one. And over the past year, we’ve found a small but vocal group of readers who love it, too.

Just recently, I did find an agent to try to sell my second book, a somewhat more mainstream literary mystery. I love this book, too, as I certainly hope at least one publisher will. But I also know that whatever happens, I’ll never again have the kind of experience I’ve had with Bona Fide Books. And that makes me a little bit sad.

Because what other publisher would buy a Bigfoot suit for your book launch, and recruit her husband to wear it?


Ann and friends at the launch of Bigfoot and the Baby, Lake Tahoe Community College.

Ann Gelder will be appearing at Village House of Books on May 2nd at 11:00 am as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration! Come say hello to Ann and our other local authors that we will be featuring throughout the day!