Monday, January 5, 2015

Words Are Powerful

MaryCassatt-ThePensiveReaderIt was 1996, 20 years ago next year, and I was living in a place I didn’t like. Okay, let’s be fully honest. I detested the place. It was the antithesis of everything I wanted in a place I had to live.

I couldn’t just move. My life then was Army. An Army spouse, subject to the whims of wherever they decided to send us.

At the time, my husband had been sent to Korea for a year, with only three weeks at home in between. I was an 18 hour drive away from my family. I knew two of my neighbors and talked with them at times, and my husband’s good friend was down a couple of streets, but due to protocol, he came into the house only when my husband was home. By all rights, I was on my own most of the time. With two young children. In a place I hated. Doing a seasonal job to help pay bills that caused anxiety attacks, along with family issues back home I couldn’t be there for.

Let’s just say that when you’re prone to depressive episodes, this is a situation you strongly want to avoid.

Back in high school, I started creating a story in my head based on a “okay, but what’s behind the scenes that we don’t hear” continually burning question in my mind. The characters became very real to me. I’d been writing or creating since I was able, so it was second nature already. I only wrote one scene of it, but a whole long, involved story had formed.

Then I gave all that stuff up for college, marriage, babies, and moving.

At some point, you have to return to who you truly are inside.

So, on a very low point on a day I finally got my rambunctious, stubborn 4-year-old to take a rare nap that I needed far more than he did, I knew something had to change. That one scene I’d written was long gone – disappeared somewhere along with a bunch of other starts and letters and such in my file box.

It came back to me that day. I could see the dock in that scene I’d written years ago. I could see the couple. I knew them inside-out already. I knew their story mattered, at least to me. So I wrote the scene again.

That simple act of writing on a piece of lined notebook paper with a well-sharpened pencil snapped me back to who I was.

I didn’t stop. I filled page after page with any spare moment I had. My fingers cramped. Then my wrist got sore. The pain started to creep from my wrist up my arm into my shoulder and I finally had to stop using it for some time while my wrist was in a brace to let it rest. So I learned to write again with my left hand, as I had to do once when the same thing happened during a 20 page term paper in high school, and I kept going.

A funny thing happened. That “I can’t take this anymore” depression lifted with each page. It was a badly written story since I had no actual novel writing instruction, but at the time, that didn’t matter. It was for me. It kept me sane through very long days and nights of wondering how I’d get through the next one, through not wanting to be out among the place where I was stuck for over five years. The place that took my social phobia and exasperated it to my wits’ ends.

The act of writing that story (and it could have been any story) returned my wits.

Writing is a powerful thing. It’s soul-searching. It’s problem-solving. It’s awareness-raising. Most of all, it’s healing.

I encourage everyone to write something regularly. If you want to burn it afterward, do that. If you want to share it or lock it in a fire safe, do that. If you want to put it in an elegant journal or plain lined or unlined notebook, do that. But write. Anything. Just start with a simple thought and let it go from there.

Today I thought I would … but…
I wonder why it is that …
… made me so angry today because …
I feel so guilty that …
What I love about this season is …

Just write it. And keep going.

You’ll be fully amazed at what you discover.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Indie Review: Bluegrass State of Mind by Kathleeen Brooks

BluegrassStateofMind-KathleenBrooksI picked up Bluegrass State of Mind by Kathleen Brooks as a free read from Smashwords. The first of a new series, it looked like a fun escape into Kentucky and its cowboys. It was a fun escape and a fairly quick read. Part of that was from skimming through all of the designer fashion descriptions of which I’ve never had any interest. I wouldn’t know Prada from Versace and it’s one thing I’m not interested in learning.

There are several things that stand out to mark this as “needs better editing,” which I try not to say. However:

1) Keeneston, Kentucky had a tricky way of switching now and then to Keenesland, Kentucky. I had to wonder for a while if they were adjoining towns since the author jumped back and forth between the two, and then there were instances I thought they were IN Keeneston and she mentioned going “back to” Keeneston (or Keenesland, take your pick). I’m still confused on that point.

2) I’m sorry, but McKenna in no way came off as a NYC attorney who had worked with the big boys club and got as high as she did. She comes off as a little princess the whole town of Keeneston/Keenesland swarms over and adores instantly, for no reason I could ascertain. A woman who has had so much loss so early (with no explanation as to how she was raised afterward) and works her way up to a big NYC corporate law firm would be far tougher and far more intelligent than Kenna comes off.

3) One week of early teen acquaintance didn’t do it for me to believe her instant “in love” with Will and vice versa. They hardly spoke to each other before they were both hooked. I can’t buy it.

Yes, I’m a tough critic, but even in a quick, fun read, believability is a must. As far as typos, I’m pretty lenient with indie works because I know it’s hard to catch them all and even big pubs don’t. But this one needed a bit more time from the author before it was released, even as a free read. Some smoothing over of sentences would be nice, as well, to get rid of the choppiness. And the dialogue… Well, not much about it was very believable.

Overall, yes, it was a fun story, although cliché here and there, and a few hours of escape where men are still gentleman. I can imagine that’s highly appealing to many female readers, as is Will, the hero, who does of course turn out to be a hero of sorts.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, click on the book cover to go to the book download.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Indie Review: 2 shorts by S. A. Williams



S. A. Williams works as a college administrator and these two short stories show his natural affinity for that age group.

In Angst, a young woman attending college away from home, a rather dysfunctional home, gets a phone call that disrupts her growing independence and makes her reevaluate her family. Part of growing up is seeing things from a different perspective and Laura finds this out quickly.

In Parable, another teenager on a precipice of life relies on a friend to help him notice his viewpoint and reevaluate his past experiences to balance them with his present.

Both stories are deep and emotional, very realistic, and well drawn. I’m not sure I would have used quite so much flashback in a short story format, but it works well enough. My must have in shorts are endings that end, so to speak, but still make you think and so don’t quite end. Something needs to change, to grow, to happen. Williams accomplishes this brilliantly in a small space. At times the writing could have been a bit smoother, but S. A. Williams is definitely an indie author to watch!

(Click on the covers to find the books.)

Reviewer: LK Hunsaker

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Read An Ebook Week 2014 Images

We’re book and art lovers here at Elucidate, so as our contribution to Read An Ebook Week 2014,  we’ve created a few images to use in marketing your ebooks this week! Right click and save to your computer.

(All original art is from public files with artist name along the side. Please do not remove artist names and titles!)

Mary Cassatt – The Pensive Reader

Balthus – Katia Reading

John Singer Sargent – Man Reading

Irene Sheri – Poetry Reading

Friday, January 31, 2014

Indie Review: Jazz by Cristian Mihai


Jazz is the story of Chris Sommers, a young man captivated by Amber, a girl of mysterious ambitions. In his quest to talk himself into telling her his feelings, he decides to shuck everything and jet over to Paris to find her.

I have mixed feelings about this coming-of-age/struggling artists in Paris short story. It’s reminiscent of the Fitzgerald-era jazz age authors with dark undertones that highlight the seedier side of life. The problem is: it’s too much imitation and not enough something new. I don’t get the whole thing with William and his family’s bankruptcy. It doesn’t feel developed enough to make me believe it and it never comes of anything after being such a big part of the beginning. The first half of the story jumps around too often and leaves the reader confused about just where they are. The plot never fully develops.

There’s also an issue with unnecessary over-description that made me start skimming and some that pulls the reader out of the story (“your eyes would dart…” in describing a painting instead of the MC describing it himself) as well as some staccato repetitive phrasing (He did this. He did that. He did the other. He did this…) and some grammar issues (“Me and Amber sat down…”).

On the other hand, Mihai has a certain voice that grabbed me and great imagery at times. I can easily see this young author developing into a nice writing talent.

Overall, I’d like to see Jazz developed into a full novel with a touch more work put into the technique. There’s much potential in this story and in this author.

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Find Jazz at Smashwords and other retailers
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*This book was purchased by reviewer. No compensation was given.

Reviewer: LK Hunsaker is the author of romantic women’s mainstream fiction as well as some straight literary ventures.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Indie Review: The Kiss Instructor by V.Anton


V. Anton’s debut YA novel, The Kiss Instructor, takes us inside the life of Alana Summer, a young ballet dancer dealing with a violent father and the mother she feels she should protect. Adin and Chris, both childhood friends, are always there for support, but Alana and Adin have mutual and unexpressed feelings for each other beyond friendship.

The main characters are  likeable but somewhat shallow, which makes them feel a bit cliché at times. I don’t tend to read YA so with that in mind, I also found too much repetitive description and thoughts which slowed the story, and too many choppy sentences that felt like the author isn’t quite comfortable with her craft yet. There were also too many POVs for a short novel and I think the prologue could have been removed and filtered into the story instead.

However, the second half of the book moves along better and pulled me in. I loved the imagery in the Puerto Rico setting which was missing in the first half of the book in New York. I especially enjoyed the unique character of Alana’s great aunt. Overall, The Kiss Instructor is a nice first effort and an entertaining read for a cold winter’s day.

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Find The Kiss Instructor on
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*This book was purchased for review. No compensation was given.

LK Hunsaker is the author of romantic women’s mainstream fiction as well as some straight literary ventures.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Indie Review: Beyond Birkie Fever by Walter Rhein

BeyondBirkieFever-WalterRheinBeyond Birkie Fever tells the true story of the author’s account of working up to his first cross country ski race, the American Birkebeiner in Hayword, Wisconsin, and moving beyond that race to many other races and adventures.

I have to say that as a parent, I was alternately annoyed by the impertinent child Rhein says he was and amused at the way he laughed at himself. And then there’s the fact that most of us don’t strike gold enough to be able to jet set around the country and across the ocean to ski and race as we please, so it can be a bit hard to relate to all of that running and doing without more basic life balancing it. That said, I do enjoy history and learning new things and Rhein does share not only his adventures, but the history of the Birkie, with some great colorful descriptions of those he meets.

Ski fans and the ultra-competitive should enjoy the ride with a grin. The rest of us may shake our heads a bit. Overall, though, a quest to push yourself to the limits and see what you can accomplish is always an interesting journey.
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Visit Walter Rhein’s Blog

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LK Hunsaker is the author of romantic women’s mainstream fiction as well as some straight literary ventures.