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Dear Parent of a Perfect Child

Dear Parent of a Perfect Child

My smile was genuine today when you told me how your son scored the best of all his class on his math exam. I was happy for him, and for you. My child forgot that today was the test, and wasn’t prepared. She got a C, even though she can do the problems in her head.

My congratulations were heartfelt today, when you stopped by my office to brag that your daughter had made Honor Roll for the fourth academic year and was on track to be awarded Student of the Year. My child has a locker filled with half-completed homework, a school bag filled with uneaten lunches because there wasn’t enough time, and a desk filled with beautiful drawings that have absolutely nothing to do with the assigned work.

I smiled a little less broadly today, when, in the course of catching up on our workload status, you casually mentioned the unprecedented internship with a major-name politico that your daughter landed, because your husband contributed heavily to his campaign. My daughter will be working at an entry level retail job this summer—I hope. If she remembers to submit her applications. And if not, I hope she cleans her room.

I forced my mouth upwards when I heard, yet again, about your prodigy, who has gotten a full-ride to a prestigious private school, made varsity letters on three sports teams, volunteers at a homeless shelter and fosters kittens and puppies while cooking gourmet meals for the family most evenings, because you are so busy at work.  My child is disorganized, insecure, depressed and crippled by anxiety because she is not your child.

On the other hand, my child can create music, or dance, or art, or poetry at the drop of a hat. She can soothe an agitated animal with a kind word, and she can argue her intellectual position with the eloquence of a trained barrister.

So, please. Stop telling me how perfect your child is. You don’t see that your child is a binge-drinker because it’s the only way she can get your voice out of her head, telling her she has to do better. You don’t see that the sports injuries he got, playing too hard, so he wins a tiny bit of your approval have gotten him hooked on oxycodone and that heroin isn’t far behind because it’s cheaper and that paid internship didn’t come through like he told you it did. You don’t see that my child is sober, and thoughtful and kind, creative and smart, but a little lost, trying to find her way in a world where your perfect child fits in and my perfect child doesn’t.

Or, please. Continue. Tell me how many job offers your child has gotten or that they passed their Series 7 on their first attempt. And then look in their medicine cabinet, or their liquor cabinet. Or wait 10 years. But please don’t look at me with pity when I tell you something that my child did that isn’t your idea of perfect. Because perfection comes at a price.

 

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Red on the Run by K.M. Hodge

Red on the Run is the first of three books in a series by K.M. Hodge, all of which involve a shady organization called The Syndicate. They seek power and influence through violence, intimidation, blackmail and other nefarious means. They are NOT. NICE. PEOPLE. Not so unusual, so far.

But then, we meet Alex and Katherine, our protagonists in this volume. K.M. could have stuck more closely to the trope, but instead, she gives us damaged people. And damaged people are always more interesting.

Katherine is married to Charles, an abusive and violent man who, it turns out, is involved in The Syndicate. She’s also a recovering alcoholic. Alex is a recovering sex addict with PTSD, in part stemming from his failure to protect a young woman he loved while on deployment in the Middle East. Katherine is an FBI agent, assigned to crack the case on The Syndicate, and she has explosive information. Alex is a CIA agent, working undercover as an FBI agent, and has been assigned as her partner, and to protect the information she has. Their first meeting is in a bar, and sparks fly. These characters, and a cast of supporting members, put us on a roller coaster that take the reader on a ride of a story involving life, death, love, loss and family bonds.

Ms. Hodge starts the pace of the suspense story a little slowly, gradually speeding up to the point (around 30% on my Kindle) where the story hooked me in solidly. The relationship between Alex and Kate builds in intensity, encounters hurdles and obstacles, and begins to resolve, only to take us around a turn once more and start the slow and inevitable climb to another breakneck loop around the track of this story. The effort to unravel The Syndicate follows a similar track, with both story lines intersecting and weaving, then splitting apart, then coming back together.

I always have a few thoughts after reading a book about how the story could have been strengthened, or a character rounded. In the case of this book, there are two places where I think some subtle changes could have been made.

The first is in Katherine’s alcoholism. Although it’s mentioned in the beginning of the story that she goes to meetings with Charles, I think that a few more mentions could have helped strengthen the readers’ understanding of her empathy when Alex reveals his own addiction. As it reads now, the disclosure of her own substance problems has happened so far before there’s a second discussion of them, that it almost seems “out of the blue.”

Second, Ms. Hodge is highly skilled at creating tension and expectation in her story. But I think that often, there are “mini” arcs of that tension and expectation that don’t result in a BIG EVENT (or even a kind of small event). It’s the writing style. But, as above, a slightly lighter hand with this could make a big impact when the several major twists, turns and events really DO explode on the page.

I will absolutely be reading the next two books in this series, and adding the author’s Texas Wife series to my reading list, as well. This is an author to watch.

The Kindle edition is available now. Print is due out soon.

Red on the Run, on Amazon.com

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The Writer, Unleashed

At what point do you become a writer? Is it when you first put pencil to paper or hands to keys and write a story? Or does your writing have to be published somewhere that people, and especially yo…

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The Writer, Unleashed

The woman who writes my thoughts more eloquently than I can has spurred me to contemplate a companion piece to this, her most recent blog. Because, while Rachel always aspired to write and lost her way, I never had that aspiration. Thus, I had to find my way back to my soul via a s similar, but less well marked path.

challaandhaggis

Writer UnleashedAt what point do you become a writer? Is it when you first put pencil to paper or hands to keys and write a story? Or does your writing have to be published somewhere that people, and especially your friends and family, can tangibly see and touch it? Or is it when you start getting paid for the words you write? It’s something every writer ponders, and it’s been written about by nearly all of them.

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An Interview with K M Hodge

An interview of a writer colleague, by a writer colleague. Emmanuelle asks some excellent questions and Kelly’s answers are engaging and informative.

Emmanuelle de Maupassant

 

Before we begin our ‘serious writing talk’ Kelly, tell us some of the things you love.

As a mother of two and a prolific writer, I don’t have a lot of time for pastimes. When I Orange Coworking-1248 (1)have a spare moment, I usually watch something on Netflix. I am, however, a die hard X-files fan. I have followed and obsessed over the show for the last twenty-three years. My husband is a board game designer so we sometimes play games, though not as often as we used to.

Share with us five books you consider to be absolute favourites, and what aspects of their telling intrigued/entertained you.

1) Stephen King’s The Stand: I loved the characterization and suspenseful storytelling.

2) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: for its strong female characters.

3) Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible: I loved its varying points of view, and each distinct voice.

4)…

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In Another Life, by Julie Christine Johnson

Let me start by saying that I love historical fiction, stories that take place in Languedoc, Cathar history and a good time slip/paranormal element. Since In Another Life has all those elements,  I had to read it. I promised myself I wouldn’t have unrealistically high expectations – after all, it’s the author’s first published novel and it’s very ambitious in scope. I didn’t need to manage my expectations. This book is as good, if not better, than many other historical fiction works I’ve read by more experienced authors.

We meet Lia as an emotionally bereft woman, still reeling from her beloved husband’s tragic death 18 months earlier. The impact her grief has had on her career has only makes matters worse. She’s been denied tenure and has been unable to complete her dissertation on Cathar history and religious beliefs. She comes to Languedoc to try to heal, in the kind of perfect guest house we ALL wish we had available for as long as she needs it, so she can regroup. Almost immediately, Lia is swept into a  story that transcends time, stirs mysteries of a centuries-old assassination, political machinations, and promises a chance at love.

The writer takes us on a journey that starts in 1208 and ends in the present day. Ms. Johnson tells the tale so deftly, and with such a sure command of her narrative that this reader simply felt pulled along in the currents of time and place that she crafted. It’s obvious from the language that the writer knows and deeply loves the Languedoc region. That love is writ large in her elegant and evocative descriptions of place.

On reflection, was left thinking that Lia could be just a touch rounder; her struggles to let herself love again are some of the best character exploration in the book. Moments that we see her friendship with Rose are bright points that could have been exploited a tiny bit more. I found, too, that I wanted to see Father Bonafe more overtly torn, or Lia less accepting of the priest at face value. But these minor issues in no way dilute the pure enjoyment of reading this book.

There are rich descriptions of landscape and the physical places in story. As I read, I wished for a map. There is a map! Unfortunately, I missed it, but will now go back and check the map to answer some of the questions I had about where parts of the story occurred. Paperback buyers who get the Kindle preview be wary — the map seems to be in pages that are skipped when the Kindle file is opened. I think that’s how I missed it.

This writer is one to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed In Another Life and look forward to reading Ms. Johnson’s future books.

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Congratulations Raine and L.G.

And he cooks, too!

http://happyeverafter.usatoday.com/2015/12/17/introducing-recipes-from-raines-roost-sweet-potato-and-banana-puree/

L.G. O’Connor was one of the first writers I beta read when I started reading manuscripts for writers I didn’t know. And today is the launch of her character’s monthly columns in USA Today!!! If you enjoy contemporary romance, or urban fantasy romance, I recommend her books wholeheartedly.

 

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REVIEW: Grace Me With Your Presents, by Pippa Franks

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Grace Carter is nearing her 40th birthday and her only daughter has just left for college. She’s unsure about reconnecting with her husband and wrestles with a secret she’s kept since before her marriage. As she’s about to tell her husband her secret, she’s called away to her childhood town to help her aunt recover from a broken hip.

While there, Grace rediscovers things about herself and learns quite a bit about her family and neighbors. Ripe for personal change and growth, Grace evolves quickly and so does her involvement in the little town of Eskton. The secondary characters are richly drawn and have distinct, quirky characteristics. The way that each relationship is explored, and each character revealed, from Grace’s interactions with her college-bound daughter at the very beginning of the book, to her conversations with the drunk vicar, have so much relate-able truth to them. The interactions between Tippy and George are wonderfully written, and I very much enjoyed getting to know Jemima, Grace’s aunt.

I did have some issues with the way the plot developed. In my opinion, there is a good deal of foreshadowing and it becomes fairly heavy-handed at times. I found myself wishing, when I finished the book, that there was less lead up to the big reveal and more exploring its impacts on the characters involved. There is a second surprise that’s very well designed, but I wished it had been explored more. As a U.S. reader, I both enjoyed and was confused by some of the colloquialisms used in the narrative. The language gave the story a flavor that I liked and, since I wasn’t accustomed to some of the words, made me more aware of just how universal the themes in this story really are.

All in all, I enjoyed the book very much and will read other books by this author, but I do feel that a bit more editing in some places, and a bit more exploration in others, would have done this book good.

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Holding onto the Parts that Make Us Human

As close as I’ve seen to my own thoughts. Which are still crystallizing.

challaandhaggis

Hugging a treeWe are overwhelmed. And how could we not be during this time of anger and hatred, terror and fear, doubt and uncertainty? The current state of affairs, when viewed in its entirety, is simply too much to absorb. The forest is so scary as a whole that we’re not seeing the trees. But we need to see the trees.

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The Yellow Stickie: A Love Letter

From my friend Rachel. She always seems to find a way to express my feelings. 😉

challaandhaggis

Yellow Stickie2It all began one day some years ago, most likely prompted by my parents taking a look around at the sheer amount of stuff they’d accumulated and trying to figure out how in the hell they would divvy it among their four children in their will. Enter the infamous yellow stickie.

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