Tag Archives: #GiveaBook

Creative Ideas Flowed at Writefest 2017

Discussing Flash Fiction with Kathy Fish

Writefest 2017 was a wonderful week packed with inspiring workshops and fascinating panels. Heartfelt gratitude to Layla Al-Bedawi and Holly Walrath for organizing the conference, and to all the volunteers who kept things humming along. I was honored to present an authors’ chat with flash fiction legend Kathy Fish! Skilled, modest, and creative, she offered helpful ideas and insights. She empowered me to experiment more with hybrid forms of flash fiction.

Reading my flash fiction at Cafe Brasil was also more fun than scary. The talented Julia Rios also read, and now I want to discover more of her work. Writer (and positive force in the universe) Jody T. Morse helped me woman the Spider Road Press booth during the Literary Journal and Publisher Fair. We spoke with many interesting writers who enjoy short fiction.

I can’t wait for Writefest 2018!

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Reading My Recent Flash Fiction

 

 

 

My Gratitude Book

Spider Road's New Collection of 4 Novellas & Bonus Flash Fiction

Spider Road’s New Collection of 4 Novellas & Bonus Flash Fiction

The first collection that I have curated since becoming a working mom comes out in less than two weeks! I am thrilled! And I am also a little nervous, very proud and pretty gosh-darned tired. I can’t wait for y’all to read the four unique and suspenseful novellas in here.

This book has been a literary journey taken with four talented writers who are clever, determined, responsive and willing to “kill a darling” word or two. I admire writers who take risks. I enjoy the work of authors who put a truly new slant on a satisfying standard. As an editor, I am grateful to writers who respond to questions about work and requests for help with promotion with consideration and enthusiasm. I recommend the fiction of these four writers. I also recommend hiring and/or working with these four writers if you ever get the chance.

The reader’s bonus flash fiction section makes my heart happy. The award-winning flash pieces featuring complex female protagonists will move readers. The editor’s bonus is that the award-winners and judges involved are also good people.

Another bonus-becoming a working mom has been amazing, gratifying, and humbling. We got my wee son into a wonderful Montessori program. Then he promptly picked up all the independently minded & skill building germs there, and he got the croup. Then he stayed home to get healthy and gave all his sweet boy germs and snot to Mama. So, as I watch the release of this wonderful book approach from behind my tray of chicken soup and vials of antibiotics and bronchitis-battling steroids, I want to thank some of the people who helped and are continuing to help Spider Road Press midwife this great collection into the world:

The writers. Skilled and brave souls all.

The Spider Road Press 2015 Kickstarter donors who generously funded the production costs.

The designers who did such amazing work. Heidi Dorey’s cover and David Welling’s interior design bring the stories to life.

Kessika Johnson-Spider Road Press worker bee and role model for caring working moms everywhere.

My husband! I can’t write the foreword to a new book and change diapers at the same time. Thanks, Papa Steve!

SRP’s deft consultants Lilia Fabry and Vi Moore.

My writing critique group. For every time I said, “Thanks for the feedback on my flash fiction. Can I ask you for a reader’s opinion on….” (Insert new idea about book design or book promotion).

The talents at SkipJack Publishing. For learning all the the nitty gritty, only sometimes pretty, truth of indie publishing. And then generously sharing it. And sharing it. And always being open to exchanging ideas.

The Houston Writers House & The Houston Writers Guild. For all that they do to support local presses and emerging writers.

Writespace Houston. For maintaining a creative haven.

The stellar, crunchy, loyal Goddard College MFA in creative writing community. For more than I can say in this list.

Jody T. Morse-for bursting onto the Spider Road Press scene with talent, an open mind, creative ideas, and enthusiasm just when the book launch process sped up. Girl, I owe you a bottle of wine for weathering the storm with humor and grace.

Our beta readers-both generous and honest.

Enos Rusell-eBook style whisperer. And a patient, patient writer pal.

My family & close friends. For all of your love, loyalty and support. If good karma counts, y’all will be rewarded with champagne and cheesecake in the next life.

EQ Heights Cafe- For fueling the process with mocha hazelnut lattes & good vibes. And for being so nice to my messy wee son.

As I snuggle under the multi-colored quilt my friend Amber made my husband and I as a wedding gift, and dream of boxes of fresh-smelling books, let me say to everyone on this list, everyone I’ve forgotten, and all my fellow lovers of books…

 

Thank You!

 

If y’all are interested in supporting feminist, indie publishing and great fiction by preordering Approaching Footsteps, please visit Spider Road Press: http://spiderroadpress.com/book-store/ 

 

 

Guest Blog: Birth of An Intriguing Novel

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Spy novels? Aren’t they a bit macho? Until recently, that’s what I would have said if a woman writer told me she was excited about writing a novel about espionage. I would have thought of male characters and car chases. I would’ve noted the loyal male readers (like my dad). I would have argued that novels in which the political operatives and terrorists crash into the emotional lives of everyday people, such as Edna O’Brien’s House of Splendid Isolation, made for a better read.

I would have been wrong. Yes, you should read Edna O’Brien’s excellent novel. But no, spy novels are not just about macho thrills. Case in point, Houston author Mel Algood recently published a gripping, sarcastic, violent novel about espionage and revenge, Blood on the Potomac. I had the pleasure of reading it as it progressed and loved her jaded female characters and their twisted humor. Mel joins us on the blog today to give her impressions of birthing her first book.

The Birth of Blood On The Potomac

Matthew Hale, ex-navy SEAL, joined Erebus at his friend, Jack’s, insistence. Now Jack has been murdered and the newest member of the private spy organization, Samantha Locke, seems to be the key to uncovering the truth behind Jack’s death. Samantha Locke, rogue assassin, has one goal in life, to find her father’s killer. Blackmailed by Erebus to work for them in exchange for the identity of the woman she’s hunted all her life, Samantha finds herself falling in love with her hunky handler,Matthew Hale. As they sift through the web of lies, their passionate attraction draws them closer together. But can they ever truly trust each other? Will their love help them find the truth, or will it tear them apart?

The story of Samantha Locke and Matthew Hale took time to reach readers. Which made the night of my book release even sweeter. The night started off as many spring evenings in Houston-pouring down rain. Thankfully by the time my handsome man Israel and I made it to Gratifi Kitchen and Bar, in the heart of Montrose, the water abated. The weather reminded me of my personal experience while writing the novel. There were pitfalls, and a fair share of challenges, but after three years, my novel was finally available to the reading public.

I was excited when I saw that the menu had named a drink after my debut novel “Blood On The Potomac,” which proved delicious. The venue was crowded, and when I read scenes from the novel there were gasps and laughs at the right times from the audience.

The people that joined me on the evening my novel was released ranged from old friends, fellow writers, and avid readers that were excited to start reading. One of the attendees-a college student and talented author told me that after I read the infamous ‘roof top’ scene in the ‘Looking Glass’ chapter she “couldn’t stop reading even after you did. I just had to find out what happened next!” Gratitude swelled in me that so many people came to support me.

The most memorable moment for me was when someone made a toast to me, easily one of the people who has known me personally for the shortest amount of time. Sherrie along with several of my co-workers from Green Apple Salon- Montrose, http://www.greenapplesalons.com came to the event just a few blocks from our salon. I was elated that they attended-a friend mentioned that no one from my previous salon attended any of my previous, yet numerous, writing events. My fellow hair stylist, Sherrie, stood up, and tapped a knife against her glass. She called the room to attention and began to speak. Her words were moving, and the night was long, thus I can’t quote anything for sure other than how she concluded her toast of love and admiration with “you are a true artist, Mel, and we love you.”

Knowing that others appreciate your gift for the written word is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Thank you to all my friends, family, and the readers that attended any past or future event-without you I’d be telling stories to myself. Thank you for helping me bring Samantha and Matthew into the world.

You can purchase my debut novel Blood On The Potomac on Amazon or from Inklings Publishing at www.inklingspublishing.com. Check out updates on my blog, melalgoodauthor.com, and follow me on Twitter @MelAlgood.

Graphic Novel Review: “Blacksad”

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Philosophical Noir, Neo-Nazis & a Tough Feline Hero

A graphic novel has to tell a damn good story to garner my attention. Until five years ago, the only graphic novel I really admired was the powerful Holocaust story Maus. Boy, was I missing out on a rich, diverse genre. Mystery fans, take note of Blacksad, an unlikely gem. Even if you’re not “a graphic novel person.” Canales and Guarnidno anchor their exciting yet philosophical graphic novel of danger and passion by depicting a surprisingly complex feline protagonist in both text and illustrations. This is not a story for kids. Both the ideas and the illustrations are for readers at least 16 and up. Yet, even in translation, the author and illustrator convey that Blacksad is much more than a noir-style anthropomorphized detective trying to solve two intriguing murders, a kidnapping, and the disappearance of a nuclear scientist. P.I. John Blacksad uses all of his skills to seek his own brand of justice; he’s both a fixer and a thinker.

Capable, Blacksad scares off a stalker for a famous actress in a manner that is firm and “efficient.” Both the text and the illustrations, which reveal a gun flashing and a teeth baring panther, keep the reader engaged. I certainly agree that Blacksad could handle any villain when he “puts his mind to it.” In an unusual twist, Canales and Guarnidno further stress Blacksad’s ability to dodge lies and bullets by portraying him as able to circumvent both family drama and neo-Nazis as he tries to return a kidnapped girl to her dedicated teacher. Guiding the reader from solving murders into a battle with Neo-Nazis seems unlikely, but the author and illustrator pull it off with ease. That’s because you believe that this man- er, I mean cat -Blacksad is worth following. Furthermore, the author and illustrator highlight not just the panther’s ability to land a punch and solve a case, but also to think deeply. They render one of Blacksad’s reflective moments as he discusses the unfinished train station in a racially divided suburb known only as The Line. Drawn in black silhouette against a snowy sky, Blacksad notes that the unused train station remains “an image of what could have been, but never was” in the poor suburb.

I recommend Blacksad to fans of both noir fiction and graphic novels because the author and illustrator work in concert to create a feline hero as real and complicated as any human being. They use text and artwork to communicate both Blacksad’s streetwise problem solving and his deep meditations. Discover this unique read yourself: Blacksad by Juan Diaz Calales, illustrated by Juanjo Guarnido., an published by Dark Horse Books is available on Amazon and in indie bookstores and some comic shops. Become “a graphic novel person” for a little while and you’ll enjoy it.

Blessings and Books

Reads that Dolly Cat and I Recommend

Reads that Dolly Cat and I Recommend.

Dear Readers:

Happy holidays! I wish you precious time to savor with family and friends and good novels to read. This festive season of laughter is also a time of reflection. It is a great time to count your blessings – and mine start with you, my readers. I am so grateful for your interest and your support. Many voices compete for your attention in the din of popular culture and every time you scroll down the screen, turn the page, or write a review of one of my books, I feel very fortunate.

In 2015, I was pleased to bring my stories to new audiences. Spider Road Press published my collection, Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories, as an eBook. This collection contains my prize-winning story about baby brokers in Asia, “Bargaining.” Short stories don’t sell as well as novels, but I am honestly proud of the effort I put into every piece in this collection. The talented group of Houston area mystery writers known as The Women of Mystery – particularly Pamela Fagan Hutchins and Gay Yellen- played a crucial role in encouraging me to write and revise these literary and suspense pieces. I send my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this special eBook! It means more to me than you know.

I was also happy to have my work published in several anthologies. My crime story “Blood-red Geraniums” was just published in the tense, fun anthology, Waves of Suspense, from HWG Press. This book is a great vacation read. My first fantasy story, “Puca Dawns,” was included in the diverse collection, Tides of Impossibility, from Skipjack Press. Finally, I took on the challenge of writing and editing poetry for the Spider Road Press fundraiser book In the Questions: Poetry by and about Strong Women. I learned a lot from the more-experienced poets involved in this project. (It is available from Spider Road Press and on Amazon.) Loyal readers, fellow writers and helpful critique partners, you supported me every step of the way, and I could not have published these stories without you!

Writers are first and foremost readers, so I wanted to share with you a list of some books that I enjoyed reading or rereading this year. If you have any favorite reads from 2015, please share them in the comments. It seemed like everyone stole a few hours to enjoy The Girl on the Train, but here are a few books that I recommend that you may have missed.

Good Reads
Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014 by Alice Munro (rich and precise)
Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron (a classic American mystery)
Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (a smart mystery)
Erebus by Jane Summer (a unique poetry/memoir hybrid)
Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey written by Sisters In Crime, Edited by Hank Phillipi Ryan (writing craft and inspiration)
Red Thread: Poems by Teresa Mei Chuc (poetry)
Cover of Snow and As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman (excellent thrillers)
Heaven to Betsy by Pamela Fagan Hutchins (great mystery featuring a sexy cowboy)
The Closing by Ken Oder (legal thriller)
Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror by Eden Royce (horror)

Thank you again, generous readers and reviewers! Happy holidays and happy reading. Peace to you and our world in 2016.

Exclusive Collection Celebrates Diverse Voices

This exclusive collection features poetry and art by 28 talent women.

This exclusive collection features poetry and art by 28 talented women.

I am thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of a unique, diverse collection of poetry and art by women from all over the world, In the Questions! It is not only an embodiment of a range of women’s experiences expressed poetically, but also the result of generous, skilled poets and artists banding together to help the mission-oriented indie publisher that I founded, Spider Road Press.

Recently, I donated a piece to the Writespace fundraiser anthology, Our Space. I was proud to support this helpful community writing center. Writespace donors were happy to receive the volume, which showcased the writers that Writespace encourages. When I held the book in my hand, a little green lightbulb went off in my brain (what, your mental lightbulbs aren’t green?). To help us forego reading fees, keep contest entry fees low, and pay our staff and designers fairly, Spider Road had planned our own fundraising campaign. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I asked the always gracious Writespace director, Elizabeth White-Olsen, if I could borrow her idea and curate my own collection connected to Spider Road’s October indiegogo campaign. Wonderful poets generously donated the one-time use of their work, and In the Questions was born.

Editing a poetry collection was a new adventure for me. I haven’t considered poetry submissions since my days as a poetry reader on the staff of The Pitkin Review at Goddard College. There are so many different styles of poetry! My assistant editor Kessika Johnson and I learned a lot through the editorial process. We were lucky to be able to work with experienced copyeditor Lizz Schumer. Some interesting and fun issues arose. Consider poets who intentionally reject standard capitalization and syntax in the style of E.E. Cummings. They presented a fun challenge of balancing quality editing with poetic style.

Exclusive to Spider Road Press, In the Questions marries many distinct voices. It also means a lot to me personally – I feel truly blessed to have worked with the poets and artists involved. Spider Road Press is rewarding supporters who donate $25 or more to our indiegogo.com campaign by 11/1/15 with this exciting anthology (among other perks). Please support Spider Road and women writers by donating here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/spider-road-press-books-by-about-strong-women#/

In The Questions contains many excellent poems, but I want to share one of my favorites, “Hyacinth,” by gifted Vermont writer Eileen M. Brunetto. Enjoy.

Hyacinth

She’d set the house ready,

Whisking away winter‘s grime,
She wiped the windows of our souls clean,
Then poured the used-up water on the roots of a backyard forsythia

Lenten offerings made in silence

I recall the bulb, its fragrance like a prayer Leaves firm, pointed toward heaven
A scent not unlike her own
All my springs ever since

The Beauty of Holiday Book Swaps

One of my favorite parts of the holidays is the tradition of the Secret Santa Book Swap. It is the perfect marriage of the holiday spirit and sharing the book that stole your heart this year. While I was living abroad in Asia, I could not find a fiction book group that lived up to the wonderful standards of the mimosa brunch clu-, I mean, book club, that I’d left behind in Portland, Maine. I loved those ladies and most of the books that they suggested. So, while abroad I listened to a wonderful book podcast called Books on the Nightstand. It’s such a fun, unpretentious, book geek’s podcast, that I listened to it weekly, read their suggestions, and it started to feel like my book group without a book group. Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman from Books on the Nightstand get their listeners involved in lots of fun activities, such as a summer reading bingo game, and even run amazing book lovers’ gatherings appropriately titled Booktopia. But one of my favorite traditions is their listener Secret Santa Book Swap. Via their Goodreads group, listeners sign up and then, via a separate passworded site, they are matched with a book lover secret santa. Again this year I messaged with a lovely fellow book-lover while participating. She found out that I love short stories, and sent me a luxurious hardcover copy of Alice Munro’s Family Furnishings. Even if you “bah humbug” gift exchanges, do listen to the free podcast books by the Books on the Nightstand crew sometime.The fun hosts know their books, but they keep it friendly and down-to-earth. Find out more about them here: http://booksonthenightstand.com.

Having done used book swaps with previous book group and writing groups, this year I was pleased to introduce the tradition to my inspiring and supportive Houston Writers Guild critique circle. This group of writers has given me so much insight, that it was a fun and affordable way to honor them this holiday season at the end of our mid-December critique meeting. We each brought a used book that we had not written (or edited) ourselves. We wrapped them without cards so that no one would pick the book that their bestie brought, and put them in a big red bag. Then each writer drew out a b0ok and opened it. We were all surprised by the books we received. I received a copy of Pirsig classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I skimmed it years ago, but I look forward to giving it a proper read as an adult who can appreciate its nuances. My writing group enjoyed the swap and I hope that the December book swap tradition endures.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my reading and writing friends. You have limited time and a million diversions to choose from, and I appreciate your interest in my books, my blog and my stories. I hope that Santa brings you a juicy novel this year, or that you receive a good book for each and every night of Hanukkah.

Happy holidays and happy reading!

#GiveaBooK and Give That New Book Smell

 

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By now, you’ve probably noticed that readers are posting and Tweeting #GiveaBook everywhere this week, and it warms my heart. It is always important to encourage friends to share the magic of reading, and support their local authors, but this month the message means even more. Penguin Random House has chosen Save The Children as the recipient of their #GiveaBook charitable campaign this year. As you’ve probably heard, for every use of the hashtag #GiveaBook on Facebook and Twitter before December 25, Penguin Random House will donate a book to the Save the Children organization, up to 25,000 times. You can follow the campaign at @giveabooknow on Twitter for more information.

So here I am, joining the chorus to encourage you to get involved and to spread the hastag. I love to give books and I love to get them. Ask the husband who offers to carry my very heavy suitcase. Is giving a book boring? Never, because there is such a variety of books to chose from at your local indie bookstore and online. And if your nephew reads on his ipad, I suggest that you gift him an ebook. For years, my family in Maine has been giving me a copy of The Best American Short Stories (insert year) every Christmas. It’s only one of many great anthologies out there, and I know it’s coming, but pulling open that box and taking in the new book smell of the collection makes me very happy. Every year. The stories themselves contain the surprises. So don’t fall for the flashy gizmos. Books are a classic gift for a reason. A good book is a good friend. Happy Holidays!