Friday, June 24, 2016

Review of Seventeenth Summer

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly is widely acknowledged to be the first YA, young adult, novel. It was published in 1942 and Daly very likely did write it at age seventeen.

I found Daly’s book to be a great time capsule of certain aspects of the Midwestern lifestyle that my mother would have experienced. My mother’s family lived closer to the earth than the families depicted in the novel. My grandfather had six kids to feed on a laborer’s salary.

What rang true were Daly’s descriptions of gardens, trees, birds, and even the insects. She made the water in the lake and rain that fell on the roof come alive in such vivid reality that I had to marvel at the skill for such a young author.

Elm trees have been gone for so long that I’d forgotten about their lacy foliage. Likewise, walking across the grass and stirring up clouds of powdery-winged moths. I had to go outdoors in the early morning darkness to see if insects still swarmed around the street lights—they didn’t. It made me feel that my little section of suburbia was something of a desert for life forms other than humans.

However, I can’t say I liked how Daly treated her teens. They were so bound up with artificially formal rules of how to fit into that society there was no room for the different or adventurous young woman. They would be punished by being ostracized and shunned. The guys didn’t fair much better. They were two-dimensional and hardly real as they were slotted into their assigned roles.

This book was published after the attack on Pearl Harbor and I couldn’t help feeling the dread of knowing all this wide-eyed innocence would soon come to an end in the worse possible way.

Yes, Seventeenth Summer was a window on an ideal, too perfect past. But it’s not a bad thing to be reminded of where we might have been … once. It can show us how much we’ve lost.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Writing Book Reviews

I’ve been trying for last couple of years to write a review of each book I’ve finished reading. Usually posting them on Goodreads first, Amazon second.

My first reviews were very brief, but that didn’t bother me because best-selling authors don’t need that much from me. However, local authors are a different story; they should be given extra attention and effort.

Take the time to write a review. The size doesn’t matter; it’s a small bonus with potentially big dividends for local authors.

My point: Give your local authors a boost by reviewing their work.

Here is my review for an author and lecturer at the upcoming David R. Collins Writers’ Conference in Davenport, Iowa.

Edisto Jinx by C. Hope Clark is our return visit to the chaotic world of Callie Jean Morgan, a former Boston police detective who has relocated to the palmetto lined streets of the South Carolina paradise. Callie’s life has been in deep disarray since the death of her husband two years earlier. She and her teenaged son, Jeb, are seeking refuge in the peaceful resort community that holds comforting ties to her past. But serenity is hard to come by when panic attacks plague her attempts to blend into the close-knit community of year-round residents.

Callie is haunted by more ghosts from her past life than her psychic next door neighbor, Sophie. Callie’s cop instincts seem to fail her as she spirals down into crippling self-doubt. The lifeline for Callie finally comes in the form of an auxiliary police badge and the return of her trusty Glock sidearm. They give her the weight and authority to pursue an investigation into a strange string of beach deaths that no one else wants to acknowledge as suspicious, related, and menacing. Everything falls into place as Callie hits her stride and shows the locals how real policing is done. The vacation community learns to trust her as she tames the panic attacks and begins to trust herself again.

Edisto Jinx is a satisfying addition to this mystery series.

Posted on Amazon March 28, 2016.

Posted on Goodreads March 28, 2016.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Who’s your favorite author?

The MWC’s social mixer meets at Bennigan’s, Rock Island, where there is good food, wine, and conversation. So of course THE question comes up: “Who’s your favorite author?” It always leaves me stumped and stuttering.

I feel my best answer should be “Whoever wrote what I’m reading now.”

First off, memory is the unfortunate issue for me; I can never recall facts and details fast enough. But my slowness to respond also means that I’m immersed in whatever book club selection I’m reading at the moment.

Also, off the top of my head … no one author stands out for long within the cloud of books I’ve read over the years. I know that’s not right. I’ve had plenty of favorites to choose from going back to the science fiction I started reading in high school. But favorites come and go depending upon my current interests.

Which raises the new question, perhaps a better question: Who or what got you started reading? Because something had to trigger that urge to keep on reading for enjoyment or learning. What ignited that first spark?

For me it was movies. I would watch something and then develop the need to know more. That need would send me to the library to find the source material. That’s what led me to the early science fiction books: War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, 2001, 1984.

For my sons, the first spark came from books on the Civil War. Later on, I took to reading selected passages from adult books like: Gary Paulson’s Winter Dance; and Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Congo. So, yes, you can read out loud to teens. I found there’s nothing like a censored book to peak their interest.

I’m letting my book clubs select my current favorite authors for the time being. I like the sense of discovery: from Margaret Atwood, to Jenny Lawson, and all the others. I like them all for different reasons—until the next month’s meeting and a new adventure begins.

Friday, June 3, 2016


Last week I went to the Midwest Writing Center’s annual meeting. At the conclusion of the business meeting a drawing was held. The prizes began with a nice selection of MWC Press books. The grand prize for many years has been a full enrollment for the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference held in late June. That amounts to three full days of workshops, readings, and a concluding lunch. An over $200 value in writerly bounty.

I’ve watched other people win and thought “Well, maybe next year” or “Maybe at the next Iron Pen contest”.

As it turned out This Was My Year!

And I almost missed it.

The people on either side of me won and I had to check out which books they picked. I also figured the luck for my row was already used up. So I was distracted when the next number was called. I looked at my ticket. It was my number. I had to ask “What did I win?”

It was the Big One!

I was surprised and happy all at once. (I’ll have to look up a better way to describe that in The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi—later.)

So now I have a new set of lucky numbers.

I have to say that in this and in a great many other ways I’ve been luckier with the Midwest Writing Center than with any of the state lotteries.

My thanks for being there and making the odds better for all of us writers.