Monday, December 31, 2012

Screw it. I'll just be myself. (A New Year's Resolution)

Realizing that I've made pretty much the same five resolutions every New Year's Eve for the past three decades, I've decided to exit 2012 - one of the worst years of my life - with a single guiding principle: Screw it. I'm just going to be myself.

My Top Five Retired Resolutions archive:
#1 Stop using bad words. Yeah. Fuck that. Sorry.

#2 Lose weight. Based on 35 years of empirical study, I can conclude with some certainty that dieting, self-loathing, guilt and constantly talking about my weight is not going to make me a size 7. I am a size 14. Bam. Weight problem solved.

#3 Work smarter, not harder! This too often translates into trying to do what works for other people. Practicality is the enemy of exploration. I have to do what feels right to me as an artist and works for me as a sole proprietor, and so far, working insanely hard seems to have yielded the most fruit. Plus I like working hard. I'm a disorganized, "method in the madness" workaholic. In size 14 jeans. Self-help gurus can suck it.

#4 Be a purveyor of shalom. This is a lovely ambition in theory, but sometimes the world needs shit-disturbers, tell-it-like-it-is-ers, boat-rockers and contrarians. For 20 years, the only prayer I've spoken on behalf of my career is "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace." Praying for book deals or for certain people to get syphilis is too narrow-minded for the wide-open possibilities of modern publishing, so I plan to stick with that, but genuine, lasting peace usually comes in the wake of healthy change, so upheaval serves that goal - in personal and professional arenas - far better than denying one's self and placating others.

#5 Be a better mom. Over the years, the specifics ranged from making a daily hot breakfast to chore charts to a total ban on television in our home for two years. God knows what my kids (now in their mid-20s) will tell their analysts about me, but they are a couple of awesome blossoms, no one's been arrested lately, and I can go to sleep at night knowing I did my best. My role from here on out is to love them, not to finance their foolishness, enable their self-doubt or critique their decisions. The best thing I can do for them is give them permission to be themselves by living the mandate I'm resolving to better embrace:

"To thine own self be true."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sneak Peak: Cheetapants Condensed Classics

Coming from Stella Link Books in 2013: Cheetapants Condensed Classics. Great books debulked so you don't have to pretend to have read them. "We preserve the author's original voice, leaving important storytelling passages intact, nutshelling lengthy/ boring/ obsolete yada yada you get the idea."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Christmas card to friends and readers: THE LATE GREAT SANTA CLAUS (Of course it's free!)

Seems like events of the past week have made this a very somber holiday. Joy and peace are precious natural resources. I hope your heart and home will be filled with both.

Please enjoy this little story about the moments in which we lose our innocence and unexpectedly find it again. I put it up free on Kindle this week as my Christmas card to all the friends, writers and readers who persistently restore my faith in human kindness.

Download The Late Great Santa Claus FREE all this week on Kindle.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone! 

THE LATE GREAT SANTA CLAUS: a Christmas Story #FREE4Kindle

Please enjoy this little story about the moments in which we lose our innocence and unexpectedly find it again. I put it up free on Kindle this week as my Christmas card to all the friends, writers and readers who persistently restore my faith in human kindness.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

With peace and love ~

Monday, December 17, 2012

HIPPIE BOY by Ingrid Ricks

Here's my review of HIPPIE BOY: A GIRL'S STORY, a wonderful coming of age memoir by the very talented Ingrid Ricks.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

LADY LIMBO by Consuelo Roland

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing, complex plot, breathtaking twists
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Lady Limbo (Kindle Edition)
Highly, highly recommending this excellent book by Consuelo Roland, who won me over earlier this year with her extraordinary debut novel, THE GOOD CEMETERY GUIDE. Everything I loved about that book - impeccable craft skills, dry wit, full-bodied characters, lovely turns of phrase - is present in LADY LIMBO, but Roland has taken it to the next level with a more complex, suspenseful plot. The international intrigue and a fast-paced story kept me engaged without detracting from Paola's journey, the emotional core of the book, as she searches for her husband and ultimately for herself.

I can't come up with a thing to fault about this book. Beautiful writing. The plot works. The characters are engaging. Even the cover is gorgeous. I think the international flavor with a touch of mysticism will appeal to fans of Ann Patchett and Paul Coelho. Top notch accessible literary fiction by a wonderfully talented author.

Friday, December 14, 2012

George Harrison "Give Me Love"


My review of JK Rowling's THE CASUAL VACANCY. I liked it a lot! Wonderful dry wit, edgy storyline, and amazing craft skills.

Harlequin Romantic Suspense Party Clue #1

HRS Holiday Party Clue #1: It was a terrible day for a race, with the dark sky rumbling, shoes sloshing, and rain soaking every runner to the skin. With everything else she had to contend with, why did today of all days have to bring with it a thunderstorm? Lightning3 For more information on how you can win enough autographed books to fill your stocking, click to learn all about the Harlequin Romantic Suspense Killer Christmas Contest! Photo attribution: U.S. Air Force photo by Edward Aspera Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Barbara Taylor Sissel's THE NINTH STEP

5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, emotional novel from a beautiful writer

Barbara Taylor Sissel crafts a sure-handed, beautiful garden of a novel on ground tilled by Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve. Firmly confronting issues of human frailty, redemption, and letting go, The Ninth Step is a story about what is, but it aches with the stories of what might have been as one man's quest for forgiveness leads him to the impossible task of forgiving himself, and the lives of the people he's wronged are drawn into a shattering spiral of events. Sissel's vibrant voice, rich characters, and deft plotting draw the reader in and keep pages turning to the gripping, unexpected end.

Originally posted on as Joni L. Rodgers.

MANLESS IN MONTCLAIR by Amy Holman Edelman

5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, poignant, delicious writing. Second read and still loved it.
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I first read this book when it came out in hardcover a few years ago. I loved Edelman's previous book LITTLE BLACK DRESS, so I had high expectations and wasn't disappointed. She's a terrifically funny and intelligent writer. Her sense of humor is urbane, sarcastic and classy without going over the edge to snotty or acidic. Her storytelling skills are so sharp; the first half of the book deftly weaves between the death of her husband and the story of their love from the very first date. So very, very well done and such a smart choice to unspool the joy and sorrow in tandem.

The second half of the book takes a sort of "Sex and the City" turn, which worried me for a moment, but it works surprisingly well, even though it's not as beautifully written as the first half. The book still holds together as a whole, and circles back exactly the way it needs to, creating a satisfying, full wingspan read. That took mad skills, and the author worked it beautifully.

Anyway, I was delighted to see an ad for the Kindle version of the book this morning. Grabbed it, read the whole thing this afternoon/evening and loved it just as much the second time around. Highly recommending if you're in the mood for something smarter and far more emotionally satisfying than chick lit but every bit as fresh and accessible.

(Hope to see LITTLE BLACK DRESS out on Kindle soon. I'd love to read it again.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BLUE MERCY book review

Here's my review of BLUE MERCY by Orna Ross. Highly recommending this intense family drama. (Think WHITE OLEANDER with a twist.) An excellent selection for smart book clubs and lovers of strong contemporary literary fiction.

Happy 12/12/12!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BLUE MERCY by Orna Ross

Here's my review of BLUE MERCY by Orna Ross. Highly recommending this intense family drama. (Think WHITE OLEANDER with a twist.) An excellent selection for smart book clubs and lovers of strong contemporary literary fiction.

UPDATE: Why did these four established authors go indie? (And where are they now?)

In July 2011, we ran this post about why four established authors were going indie on some projects. Where are they now? Here's the original post with a brief update.

We have four very different writing styles and four completely different publishing journeys behind us. What these four BoxOcto authors have in common is an enduring love and respect for books and an unwavering dedication to the art and craft of writing. And we've all made the decision to self-publish.

There's a pervasive perception that people only self-pub when they've been rejected by "traditional" publishing. That's not the case here. We all plan to continue and expand our endeavors in print publishing. We're not burning any bridges. And we're mindful of the reality that traditional publishing is not about ink, paper and royalty negotiations; it's about a zeal for excellent writing, respect for thorough editing and joy in thoughtful presentation.

So why have we gone over to the Dark Side? Well, there are the esoteric reasons Thomas Jefferson and I laid out this weekend in An Author's Declaration of Independence. But on a pragmatic level, we have four very different reasons.

Mylène Dressler
Mylène was the first of us to go live with her haunting sophomore novel The Deadwood Beetle, the story of an aging Dutch immigrant to New York, a retired professor of entomology whose father was a Nazi collaborator. The depth, beauty and artistry of this novel won thousands of fans (including me) when it was published to great critical acclaim by small literary press Blue Hen (a Penguin Putnam imprint) back in 2002. Mylène's next novel, The Floodmakers was published by Putnam in 2004, and her career expanded to include her unique brand of writing and creativity guruship. She's done fellowships and residencies at the Carson McCullers Center, UT and other lucky universities, and is now in residence at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Why is Mylène self-pubbing her backlist? Midlist authors make more money doing their own ebooks. We can get 70% of the purchase price when we sell directly through Amazon, and going through any Big 6 publisher, the best we can hope for is 25% of net. Because the book has already passed the gatekeepers, been edited and copy edited and enjoyed (in M's case) excellent reviews, it stands out from the crowd, which is the most difficult aspect of self-publishing now that the gold rush is in full swing and the market is being glutted with hastily produced amateur efforts.

Update December 2012: Dr. M, as her students affectionately call her, is in residence at Guilford College and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her novella The Wedding of Anna F, which appeared in Big Fiction Magazine. Look for the ebook in 2013.

Colleen Thompson
Bestselling romantic suspense author Colleen Thompson's maiden self-publishing effort was The Night Holds the Moon, an epic fantasy collaboration with longtime pal Parke Roberts, in which a magic flute meant to be handled only by a docile, well-trained virgin is placed - by fate or magic - in the hands of a disreputable young lady-in-waiting. It's a feat of both world-building and storytelling and is a radical departure from Colleen's body of work. With her 20th romance novel in the pipeline, one would expect her to stick with the genre that brought her to the prom, as it were. But that's not where her heart is right now, and if there's one thing a romance author knows, it's the importance of following one's heart. The Night Holds the Moon marks an exciting turning point for Colleen. More about that later this year.

Why did Colleen self-pub this original novel? I've been bugging her to blog about the fascinating backstory on this book, so I won't give too much away. Bottom line: When Colleen and her collaborator were offered a print deal, it came with a request for some major rewrites. The publisher was asking for compromises Colleen wasn't comfortable with, so she and her partner passed on the deal. Cue Frank Sinatra. She did it her way. And because she's a seasoned pro, she had the know-how to do it well. Her publisher controls most of her backlist titles, but Colleen's pubbing her back-backlist, historical romances she wrote as Gwyneth Atlee, including Innocent Deceptions, a Romantic Times Top Pick and nominee for Reviewer's Choice Best American-set Historical Romance of 2002 and the Dorothy Parker Award of Excellence.

Update December 2012: Colleen indie pubbed her Gwyneth Atlee books, which continue to sell well. She's currently working on two books under contract with a major publisher, and Amazon has picked up the rights for several of her backlist romantic suspense titles.

Joni Rodgers
When I signed a deal with HarperCollins for my memoir Bald in the Land of Big Hair back in 1999, "electronic rights" referred to film, TV and audio adaptations. The memoir tells about how I wrote my first two novels and began my publishing career while undergoing treatment for lymphoma, a virulent blood cancer, and Lifetime was interested in optioning rights for a television movie. With my long-term survival in doubt, my husband and I felt - as desperately as we needed the money - a movie about our family could be confusing and unhealthy for our children (then 7 and 9) if I wasn't around to see it. My agent withheld electronic rights. The book came out in 2001, got rave reviews, and propelled my career into high gear. Fast-forward ten years. The book is still in print, I'm still alive, and the ebook revolution has arrived. (Not sure which of these astonishes me the most!)

Why did I self-pub my memoir? Once again, it's about the Benjamins. I make more per copy. More important, I saw the opportunity to begin my own ebook venture with this bestseller as a flagship title. Blessed with generous reviews and built-in buzz, it's going to provide sturdy coattails for my backlist fiction (coming out this summer) and a new original novel I'll release this fall. HarperCollins has been enthusiastically supportive of my self-pubbing endeavor and even helped me gain permission to use the fantastic original cover (designed by Chip Kidd) because they know I'm more valuable to them if I'm thriving creatively and commercially.

Update December 2012: With BLBH enjoying steady sales and a fresh influx of glowing reviews, Joni indie published two mystery novels and a mini-memoir. She's currently working on a ghostwriting project with a major publisher and preparing to launch her own online indie bookstore.

Barbara Taylor Sissel
Bobbi is the baby of our publishing sisterhood. Her story is more typical of the self-publishers who are basically sick of the wrongheaded query process. Her writing is not typical at all. We've been part of the same critique group for six years now, and I'm continually astonished by the transcendent quality of her prose. Her fiction is issues-driven, rich in imagery, peopled by believable, engaging characters. Her first novel was pubbed by a small literary press several years ago, but Bobbi is reclaiming her publishing virginity and considering the forthcoming novel The Ninth Step her debut. And rightly so. She isn't the same writer she was back then, and Lord knows this isn't the same publishing industry.

The Ninth Step is a riveting and richly human story about an alcoholic's search for redemption in the wake of a fatal mistake, a woman's search for answers in the wake of harsh disappointment, and a family's search for peace in the wake of wrenching loss. I loved this book and can't wait for readers to get their hot little Kindles on it. Watch this space for release details!

Why is Bobbi self-publishing her debut novel? In a word, she's ready. Since her agent left the biz, the time-suck of querying, rewriting, waiting months for response simply doesn't make sense for her. Because the caliber of her writing is so high, she seldom gets the form rejection, and this drags the process out even longer. She's open to being edited, but she's wisely reluctant to follow market-minded agents and anyone else who wants to lead her too far from the path she's chosen for herself as an artist. Without giving an inch of her artistic integrity, she's asked for and received feet-to-the-fire editing, and she's investing in a beautiful cover that will open the door and welcome readers into the warmblooded world she's created. For Bobbi, this is about the art of publishing in its purest form: a skilled author, whispering directly into the ear of a discerning reader.

Update December 2012: With the success of her indie titles lighting a fire, Bobbi was signed by a fantastic New York agent who quickly landed her a big fat 6-figure 2-book deal with large mainstream publisher. The first of the two, Evidence of Life is now available for pre-order.

You'll find a continually updated carousel of BoxOcto author ebook titles in the sidebar on the left.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

RIP Dave Brubeck. "Take Five" live in Germany 1966

THE SALT MAIDEN, my favorite Colleen Thompson novel is now on Kindle!

5.0 out of 5 stars Lush landscaping, rich characters, and a spine-tingling story

What I love about Colleen's style is her knack for landscaping -- a powerful sense of place that makes the setting as vibrantly alive as the characters. Add to that a great story, zingy dialogue, and two engaging lead characters and you've got an all-nighter.

Check it out!

Originally posted on as Joni L. Rodgers

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

It's Going to Be a Killer Christmas--Dec. 14th Contest News

Can you follow the clues provided by Harlequin Romantic Suspense authors to solve a mystery? On December 14th, come join the party at the Harlequin Community Forum because the Harlequin Romantic Suspense Authors have a killer event planned. From 11:00am to 3:00pm EST A worthy hero, a brave heroine, a dastardly villain…come chat with other Romantic Suspense readers and authors about the elements of the series that keep you at the edge of your seat. Throughout the party, HRS authors will be giving away prizes and revealing clues you can use to solve A Killer Christmas–a mystery devised exclusively for the Harlequin Community Open House. Once you have all the clues, you’re eligible to enter the HRS GRAND PRIZE Book Bundle Giveaway below. See you at the party! And see you back here soon, where one of the contest clues will be posted.

Monday, December 03, 2012


My review of JK Rowling's THE CASUAL VACANCY. I liked it a lot! Wonderful dry wit, edgy storyline, and amazing craft skills.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Trailer Park: THE LONG DRUNK by Eric Coyote (Kirkus Best of 2012!)

A hilariously raunchy hardboiled story of a homeless reprobate who uses Raymond Chandler as his guide while trying to solve a mystery and save the life of his best friend.


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