Grim Realities Face Women in India Today: New Book Sensation

Margaret Jean Langstaff:

This re-blog is actually about a fine novel I just finished editing a little over a week ago!

Originally posted on cozybookbasics:

  • 51NicbHFmWL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_If you are not yet a fan of the young, award-winning writer, Fiza Pathan, her new novella Amina is a good place to start. I found it a compelling read.

Here is the description from the Amazon page of the Kindle edition, priced at only $2.99:

  • Amina: The Silent One brings vividly to life the grim realities facing women in India today, the grinding, filthy poverty, and debasement with which most Indian women must contend in their daily lives. This book will shock you and rip your eyes open. Through the magic of fiction, it tells an awful truth in human terms that cannot be told in any other way.
  • “The degradation of women in India is nearly universal, and ranges from their second-class status in society, often excluding them from educational and professional opportunities, to their frequent physical and psychological brutalization, often involving assault, rape, and sexual slavery.

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A List of Creative Writing Competitions in 2015

Originally posted on Nicholas C. Rossis:

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksStart reading Infinite Waters for free with Kindle Unlimited

You all know how much I love short stories, right? Well, enough to have published two collections so far, Infinite Waters being the latest one.

I recently entered a new short story of mine in a competition organized by Almond Press. While on their Dystopian Stories site, I noticed they have this great page with all sorts of short story competitions, with prizes up to $14,000. Naturally, I had to share.

And if you’re looking to get your short story published, check with my publisher friend Dan Dombrowski: he’s looking for stories to include in the next issue of his excellent Nonlocal Science Fiction Magazine.

Competition Country Closing Date Max Words Entry Fee Top Prize
The Pigeonhole Short Story Competition International August 3rd 5,000 Free Publication
The Reading Room Short Story Comp International October 20th 2,000 £3 £50 +…

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What’s the Big Idea?

falling-bookI was scratching my head yesterday at the astronomical number of new books on writing on the market today–most by people I’ve never heard of before with slim writing resumes and credentials.  If you take the time to examine enough of these, you quickly discover that they say nothing new; they all cover essentially the same ground and say the same yadda yadda. No big surprise there because the elements of a good story or work of non-fiction are universally acknowledged, as old as humankind and writing, and absolutely old hat to seasoned writers.

(Pulling off a masterpiece, actually writing one, nevertheless, never has been easy and never will be. I mean, I know how a bird flies.  It flaps its wings!  Does that mean I can fly? Uh, no. Not naturally, anyway.)

At any rate, these breathless books promising to turn the reader into not only a whiz-bang writer, but a bestselling one as well, owe their existence to the widespread naivete of the tsunami of wannabe authors, a creature of our time and the spawn of Amazon.  The books they pour over to acquire their writing skills do not contain stunning revelations, sure-fire gimmicks or heretofore closely guarded secrets on the “writing game.” Nope. And most are a rip.

But they are popping up all over the place because it seems everyone wants to be an “author” today, but few have  invested the time and energy necessary to master the craft of writing.  Sure, talent is important, but it’s not enough.  It takes time and effort, tons of reading and writing, re-writing, practice-practice-practice and revision. We’re talking years here, friend. And even then there are no guarantees.

Yes, but! you will say, what about all those instant bestselling ebooks by nobody writers?  What about them? Here today, gone tomorrow.  Do you remember what was on the bestseller lists ten years ago? I rest my case.

As both a writer and editor myself of many years, there are no truths I am more certain of than the “sweat factor” and the long learning curve that go into making a great writer.  Reading all the “how to” books on writing ever written does not a good writer make.

When I am introduced to someone for the first time, one of the most frequent questions I get, after my new friend has learned I’m a writer, is: “Wow.  Where do you get your ideas?” Now, you may think that sounds naive.  But it isn’t really.  All the great book ideas come from life, not from books about writing.  They come from watching and studying people, listening to them, wondering about them–and then asking yourself if so and so were in such and such a situation, what would this person do?

Voila: a believable plot is born, originating in character, and possibly resulting in an interesting book.

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Having said all this, I will now nevertheless offer humbly a short list of writing tutorials (click-click) worth your time and their weight in gold.

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“Omit needless words!”–William Strunk Jr.

elements of style

Patient blogging, book-loving followers, I have just finished editing a 385 page manuscript, and I am here to report that such a long editorial stint is corrosive to one’s own writing.

Many of you may be aware that I wear two bookish hats professionally: writer and editor.  Though related, they can be antithetical to each other if indulged in undiluted form for extended periods of time.

The best writing comes from a non-critical, spontaneous sense of play.  Revision and editing, on the other hand, require a slow, meticulous (grinding!) attention to detail in order to be effective and to improve a manuscript.

When the spirit is on an inspired writer, the writer can sometimes break the sound barrier, rent a tear in the universe, create a sonic boom, with the rapid fire flow of words.  Oh, what a feeling, eh?  We’ve all been there from time to time if we’ve been at the writing craft for a while. Writing under such muse-flogging conditions often produces some of one’s best work (although always subject to review and revision).

Any editor, however, that edited at the speed of light ought to be fired on the spot.  It can’t be done.

The title of this little lament of mine is taken from (you probably already guessed) The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, perhaps the most famous guide to writing of all time and the only “grammar” rule book (to my knowledge)  to have made the bestseller lists. If I had to distill the heart and soul of good editing, I would, like Strunk, utter the battle cry, “Omit needless words” (p.23).

Of the hundreds of reference works on editing and writing I own, this slim volume, barely one hundred pages, is by far the most valuable and the best single reference for my struggling clients.  It is also the least likely to squelch one’s imagination and the free flow of image and idea in the writing process.

At this point, I suppose I’ve given you my lame excuse for my absence here (work!) and given you a little lagniappe (a reminder of Strunk and White) to enhance your own writing and writing times.

I’ll give the master the last word in this and I won’t again stay away for so long. Happy reading and writing!

William Strunk’s words to the wise:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

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Something to Argue About! The Ten Greatest Novels of All Time?

I ran across this short video recently and thought bloggers here might find it worth pondering. It is a kind of hasty overview of these great works, a little daffy at points, but in aggregate, it is a selection worth considering. The list has actually inspired me to re-read Anna Karenina and a few of the other titles mentioned, great books I haven’t even thought about in some time.

What do you think? Do you agree with the uppity choices?  What would you add? :)

Posted in Literary Classics, Literary Lions, Literature | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

And the winner is . . . . !

I’m sure everyone has been on the edge of their seats dying to know who the lucky duck would be to win the free copy of Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools ebook that Open Road Media gave me to raffle (?) off to followers of this blog.

Well, the long wait is over at last! My four year old niece Susie picked with her pudgy little fingers the slip of paper with Lee Ann Howlett’s name on it, so the prize goes to Lee Ann!

You other two sweethearts who kindly participated in this lackadaisical raffle, please accept these two kisses from me blown through cyberspace to your dear supportive cheeks!  I wish I could give you copies too, but we were only allotted one, so that’s the way it is :(

Lee Ann, I hope you enjoy the novel. I think you said you read it once before long ago, but some things are even better the second time around.  I will email you the details for downloading the ebook momentarily.  Congratulations and happy reading!

Looking forward to getting back to things literary here and will shortly.  Until then, fellow book lovers–MJL


Posted in American Literature, American novels, Literature | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Win a Free ebook of Katherine Anne Porter’s SHIP OF FOOLS!

ship of foolsI have been approached by Renata Sweeney of Open Road Integrated Media with a promo offer on their new ebook of Katherine Anne Porter’s classic SHIP OF FOOLS, a great novel that was made into a great film.

I have one to give away and the best way I could think of to do this is to ask fellow bloggers who follow this site to indicate their interest by leaving a comment at the end of this post and either include their email address or watch this blog like a hawk for the announcement of the winner.

After a week or ten days have passed to give all those interested time to throw their name in the pot, I thought I would use the super-scientific high tech method of putting all the names in a hat and having  my four year old niece (one who could hardly be accused of favoritism as she is just learning to read herself) pull the lucky winner’s name out of the hat. How’s that for a fancy lottery app? Don’t laugh or you’ll be disqualified.

To refresh everyone’s memory about this fine book I am going to crib Amazon’s product description and provide a Wikipedia link.

(To tell the truth I’m terrified that 1) this will somehow get all screwed up or 2) Renata’s feelings will get hurt because no one is interested. But she assures me this is very simple, practically fool proof, and we can’t disappoint such a generous, kind and literary lady like Renata, can we? No!)

So leave a comment indicating your burning desire to re-read this stupendous novel on Open Road Integrated Media’s new ebook edition whether you want to or not. You can always give it away–and if you decide to do that think of me because I would love to read it again. There are so few great novelists these days that know how to tell a rip-roaring story and really engage the reader from the first page to the last.

From Amazon–

USPS06STA032

Katherine Anne Porter’s first and only novel is a masterful allegory of the passions and prejudices that sparked World War II

“August 1931. An ocean liner bound for Germany sets out from the Mexican port city of Veracruz. The ship’s first-class passengers include an idealistic young American painter and her lover; a Spanish dance troupe with a sideline in larceny; an elderly German couple and their fat, seasick bulldog; and a boisterous band of Cuban medical students.

“As the Vera journeys across the Atlantic, the incidents and intrigues of several dozen passengers and crew members come into razor-sharp focus. The result is a richly drawn portrait of the human condition in all its complexity and a mesmerizing snapshot of a world drifting toward disaster.

“Written over a span of twenty years and based on the diary Katherine Anne Porter kept during a similar ocean voyage, Ship of Fools was the bestselling novel of 1962 and the inspiration for an Academy Award–winning film starring Vivien Leigh. It is a masterpiece of American literature as captivating today as when it was first published more than a half century ago.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Katherine Anne Porter, including rare photos from the University of Maryland Libraries.”

Katherine Anne Porter

Good Luck, readers!

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