Women Who Write Book Festival
I had a good time at this year's Women Who Write Book Festival. It was an interesting change to be surrounded by other women authors. The festival was held in Grand Rapids, at the Salvation Army Center there, and organized by a group called "Hook A Sista Up", a group in Grand Rapids, that fosters writing and other entrepreneurial pursuits of women.
The center was a great space to hold an event like this. The room was large, and the tables were laid out to make easy travel for lots of people. There were large windows which let in great light, which is a bonus when books are involved.
I was thrilled to not only showcase my books, but also share books written by Andy Lockwood and Donald Levin. One of the pure joys I have, being an author advocate, is getting exposure for authors where they wouldn't normally find readers. Participating in events like this make that possible. It was a great day, and each one of us sold books!
I had only two disappointments with the day; slow traffic and too short a day. I was expecting many more people to be at the event, given how much pre-advertising was done by this group through social media. I was surprised to see so few people. However, one thing I did notice was the poor on-site marketing. I've noticed this with many events... not enough signs on the street, in front of the building, or in the lobby so passersby who aren't on social media can discover the event. Also, I think that because the day was so short - it ended at 3pm, fewer people were able to find us and attend. Perhaps a longer day next year might go over better. It was a two and a half hour drive for me... which made it a bit frustrating that I didn't have a greater opportunity to reach more readers. I think if the event were to be extended, either starting earlier or ending later, might help with foot traffic. Other than that, it was a great day!
The bonus to the day... My table sat next to the spectacular Peggy Christie and I bought her latest collection of short stories; (book review coming soon.) I look forward to the opportunity to try this event again next year!
A special thank you goes out to Bailey Lockwood for helping me discover this event. I appreciate you, muchly!
Inspection by Josh Malerman
Like thousands of other readers on the planet, I was enticed to read “Inspection” after having read “Bird Box”. My curiosity was tickled by the idea of what this unconventional author might come up with next. Also, he’s a Michigan native, and I’m always interested in reading home-grown literature. Both books, to my mind, might be considered “present day dystopian” novels. What I mean by that is that they have storylines that seem to have events that take place in another time – but through closer attention – could actually take place in the here-and-now. It wouldn’t be that big a stretch.
This was my experience of “Inspection”. It’s a bizarre thought, raising children in a protected space… feeding them selective information and emotional understanding, cut off from the rest of society. Yet, when I consider the idea more closely, it’s what many cultures are doing already, and have been doing for centuries.
The most striking part about this book for me was the idea that revolution, insurrection, and redemption are (or can be) discovered through the pages of a book. That simple idea, that the printed word might change an entire community’s concepts of self and others, is profound in my head. Mr. Malerman takes this possibility, dumps it upside down, and allows all the gooey stuff to seep from his characters into his readers, achieving a cacophony of silent defiance.
Two small warnings: this book includes some graphic violence involving pre-teen children near the end chapters, so I wouldn’t recommend it for readers younger than fifteen. And, as with Bird Box, the story doesn’t definitively end… so if you like tightly wrapped packages, you may want to skip this one.
I listened to the audiobook version, and I think it was beneficial to have two narrators, one male and one female. I’m not sure the nuances of characterization or setting description would have struck me in the same way, had there been a single narrator, or had I read the printed page in my own voice.
I’m curious to see what Mr. Malerman comes up with next.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a tremendous fan of series fiction. It’s often frustrating to me when I read the first in a series, and then come to discover that the book isn’t over and the characters are off gallivanting around in another tale without me; carrying on like it doesn’t matter if I pay attention or not. This one had an element of that frustration, until I realized that it’s also a well-crafted stand-alone novel.
How do I describe the plot of this book… Hmmm, let’s see… Literary time travel detectives who save our beloved stories and the culture in which we live by thwarting the greediness of insipid megalomaniacs bent on changing our world through wanton destruction of classic literature. Okay, that’s not perfectly accurate, but it comes close. The author plays at making the dull classics we were forced to read in high school and college three dimensional and much more entertaining. He walks a nearly sacrilege line between paraphrase and public domain rewrites while always returning to the initial integrity of the work. It’s nutty!
This book was a great deal of fun to read, even if it did start out a bit on the slow side. (Series backstory is never very exciting.) Suspending disbelief is easy, just as long as you know a bit about classic literature. In this case, Shakespeare and of course, Bronte. If you don’t have that background, I can see how you might get lost, or at the very least, not fully enjoy the journey. It helps if you get the many inside jokes and side quips that are sprinkled throughout the narrative. There are a bunch of little underlying subplot devices that keep you guessing where the story might go next (some pun intended). Think intellectual Easter Eggs. Plus, the ending made me giggle out loud; so it’s got that going for it.
Will I continue to read this series? Perhaps. Book Two is “Lost In A Good Book”. It sounds like terrific fun… but before I read it, I’ll brush up on my Dickens, Kafka, Potter, Austen, and Poe a bit, just to be sure I get the full effect.
Zebulon by R.L. Heron
Written by friend, and fellow Indie Author, R.L. Herron, this is an interesting collection of short stories. The back matter of the book classifies them as fantasy, but they don’t subscribe to the fantasy genre you might think of… no elves, dragons, or casting of spells. No, this collection is the other type of fantasy, (with some science fiction mixed in). They are what my grandfather used to call “fantastical and not to be believed, but highly entertaining”. So strange, odd, and unusual that you’re not really sure, exactly, where they fit. This is not to diminish their weight or creative strength. They are simply unlike anything I’ve encountered before and they’re hard to quantify. These shorts have just enough detail to dig the story ideas into your brain and let them rattle around a bit; but not enough specifics to make them anywhere near predictable.
Each of the stories are little capsules into an interesting world that perhaps you may not have considered before. The title piece is an odd tale about an unusual arcade game. Suffice to say, a quarter will get you more than you bargained for, with an ending that will surprise you. The subject of time travel, one of my favorite topics, is handled well here… with a paradox that even the most wise won’t see coming. A quiet conversation between three generations at a funeral produces some comforting results; and if you’ve ever eavesdropped on a conversation in the middle of it’s run, you’ll understand the disconnect when the end finally comes. You may look at old cars differently in the future.
Yup, unpredictable is certainly a recurring theme in this collection. These stories are fun to read, filled with clever imagination and thought provoking moments at nearly every turn of the page. Many left me wishing they were novellas, because I still have many questions!
This collection was a quick read, and a welcome distraction amongst my “adulating” tasks of daily life. Full disclosure: I almost burned the chicken cooking on the bbq grill one night because of “Zebulon!”
Check out my interview with Indie Author R.L. Herron on Indie Reads TV!
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