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Showing posts from 2014

Complicated mommy issues = beefy book club fodder in THE MIDWIFE

My review of Jolina Petersheim's THE MIDWIFE is almost as conflicted as the main character, a gestational surrogate who absconds with the unborn child she's carrying for a wealthy couple. (Plus a few words about the importance of grammar.)

American Blonde = triumphant return of a terrific character

One of my favorite books so far this year! Girl pilot/spy Velva Jean returns to America and is swept up in LaLa Land politics and intrigue. If you loved Jennifer Niven's first three Velva Jean Hart books, you won't be disappointed by this witty, well written story set in post-WWII Hollywood. If you haven't read the first three books (I haven't, but I probably will now), you'll have no trouble falling in love with this character and following her continuing adventures. I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

THE PROMISE = a compelling duet in a rich historical setting

THE PROMISE is set in Galveston circa 1900 and told as an intimate duet, both voices speaking in first person. Nan, an earthy Texan housekeeper struggles to keep her promise to care for a little boy and his widowed father, Oscar. Catherine, an exile from polite Midwestern society, escapes disgrace by marrying Oscar and struggles to adjust to a drastically different life on the Gulf Coast. A maelstrom of emotion (and other stormy things) ensues. A beautifully written novel I'm highly recommending for book clubs.

Adventure + Enlightenment = Great Buddha Gym for All Mens and Womens

A terrific travel memoirella. Sallie Tisdale makes her way through the tourist traps and complicated travelocity of India to explore the places where The Buddha lived, taught, and died. Smart, funny, and -- gotta say it -- enlightening. Too short for book club selection, but perfect for a flight from Chicago to NY, if you can't go to India today.

The Chronicle of Secret Riven = another lyrical journey for Hunger Games fans

Sequels suck. Almost always. This one, happily, does not. Last year, I was swept away by the lush, imaginative MAPMAKER'S WAR, so I was anxiously awaiting Book 2. It delivers, neatly avoiding that sucking sequel dynamic. Anxiously awaiting Book 3! Highly recommended for anyone who loved the Hunger Games books.

TEMPLE GROVE: Scott Elliotts compelling prose vividly captures the essence of its wilderness setting

If you loved The Wilding: A Novel by Benjamin Percy, you might be into Temple Grove: A Novel by Scott Elliott, the story of an intense wilderness struggle between a logger with a troubled past and an environmentalist being pursued by the FBI as an ecoterrorist. Densely written literary fiction that takes patience but is well worth reading. The descriptions are in depth, but the characters and story keep it moving, I promise. I went from "Do I really want to read this book?" to "I cannot leave this book."

APATHY AND OTHER SMALL VICTORIES by Paul Neilan is only good if you enjoy things like laughter

The only thing Shane cares about is leaving. Usually on a Greyhound bus, right before his life falls apart again. Just like he planned. But this time it's complicated: there's a sadistic corporate climber who thinks she's his girlfriend, a rent-subsidized affair with his landlord's wife, and the bizarrely appealing deaf assistant to Shane's cosmically unstable dentist. When one of the women is murdered, and Shane is the only suspect who doesn't care enough to act like he didn't do it, the question becomes just how he'll clear the good name he never had and doesn't particularly want: his own.

#2MinRevu Transcendent SEAL WOMAN by Solveig Eggerz creates rich emotional history

Highly recommending Seal Woman , a beautifully written novel of love, loss and self-discovery in the shadow of the Holocaust. Jerusha was proofreading the manuscript for the publisher and said, "Mom, you have to read this book so we can discuss it!" An invitation I could not resist. Book clubs: There is much to love and discuss in this powerful story (including a surprising storytelling choice toward the end over which Jerusha and I strongly disagreed.)

Salley Vickers' lovely CLEANER OF CHARTRES = Enigmatic protagonist + charming French setting

Highly recommending Salley Vickers' lovely novel about a woman who cleans the cathedral and becomes a sort of touchstone for the people of Chartres who can't help but spill their stories. Excellent writing, perfectly detailed setting, resonant characters. Plus...dolls are scary.

Guest Blog: Linda Gillard chimes in on #HowIWrite

Two years ago, I sat on a panel at the London Book Fair with the fabulous Linda Gillard. I was utterly charmed by her grace, wit, and artistic integrity, promptly bought three of her books, and have been a devoted fan ever since. Linda appears as a guest on writing blogs far and wide. Delighted to tag her here for the #HowIWrite Q&A that's currently trending: What are you writing? I’m planning my eighth novel. It will be about reconciliation and healing. I think the main character (and possibly the narrator) will be an old, neglected garden that surrounds a once-grand Victorian country house, now a nursing home. The garden has witnessed the rise and fall of family fortunes for more than a century and has now fallen into decay, but it has stories to tell about the original inhabitants of the estate. In the present day, my forty-something heroine comes home to look after her elderly artist mother who can no longer paint or live independently. Mother and daughter get to know each

THE INCREMENTALISTS asks deeper questions than your last yoga class

The Incrementalists —a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories.  Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste—and argued with her—for most of the last four hundred years. But now Celeste, recently dead, embittered, and very unstable, has changed the rules—not incrementally, and not for the better. Now the heart of the group must gather in Las Vegas to save the Incrementalists, and maybe the world.

#HowIWrite Blog Hop: Free-falling, being 50, and four fab authors you need to read this summer

Tagged by my author buddy Jen Singer for the #HowIWrite blog hop . I’m supposed to answer four questions and tag four author friends to do the same, which struck me as a fun summer chain letter sort of thing to do. Plus I do love any opportunity to tout the big talent of Roz Morris , Barbara Taylor Sissel , John A.A. Logan , and Linda Gillard . (Sharing a stellar summer reading recommendation from each.) First, the questions: What am I writing?  Well, at the moment, this blog post—one of several short pieces I owe right now. This past winter was pretty intense personally and professionally, and I fell wretchedly behind. (Amazing how clear one’s priorities become when one is in the crucible.) But in general, I’m not a great multitasker. Things tend to pile up while I’m writing a book. I go down the rabbit hole and forget about the real world until I’ve either exhausted myself or finished the thing. Right now, with the third (hopefully final) draft of my next novel fermenting in the wine

#howilibrary Mom and I discovered the world at the Tomah Public Library

Library Journal is encouraging us to share our library flashbacks and fetishes with the #howilibrary hashtag. The library was a huge part of my childhood, starting with the grand old Tomah Public Library on Superior Avenue in Tomah, Wisconsin. (It's probably not as enormous in reality as it is in my memory, but they have a nice website and seem to be going strong, which makes me happy.) Starting as early as I can recall, Mom and I stopped by the library almost every day after dropping off my older siblings at school. The summer before I started kindergarten, I was dying to participate in the summer reading program with the "big kids," so Mom took me to the librarian's desk and had me demonstrate that I could read. The librarian chose a book so she'd know I wasn't just reciting a book that had been read to me many times. (A challenge, because many, many books had been read to me many, many times.) I don't recall the book, but I remember the librarian being

Brainy gender bendation in dystopian sci fi warzone: Kameron Hurley's BRUTAL WOMEN

On the prowl for talented indie authors doing art they'd never get away with in the corporate publishing world? This excellent dystopian sci fi short story collection is recommended for HUNGER GAME fans, free-thinkers and adventurous readers of all persuasions. Well-rendered alien environs and the starkest possible circumstances are fertile ground for an experiment in gender reversal. Think "Apocalypse Now" if Brando and Sheen are on their periods.

I'm Baaaack -- Reflections on Three Years of Freelancing

I can't even remember when I last posted on here, and for that I am sorry.  In fact, some of you may not even remember me! I would give excuses, etc., but honestly, now that I am freelancing, I've just had to be super careful how I spend my time, and that includes my writing time.  That said, I have resolved to be more active on this blog, as this community has in the past been great supporters, and, well--I miss you all! The last time I was on here, I think I had decided to stop teaching and instead begin a freelance writing and writing coaching business.  I told myself that after a year of full-time freelancing, I'd evaluate the business and what it had taught me.  Well, the fact that one year turned to three sort of sums it up for me.  I can't believe it's been three years, but it has, and they've been the fastest, busiest, and yet most rewarding (by far) of my life. In that time, I've cultivated a list of long-term clients who are as devoted to me as

Muddling through my first Mothers Day without my mom

My mother, author/historian Lois Lonnquist, died six weeks ago, ending a long journey through the valley of Alzheimer's. So I was afraid I'd find all the opportunistic tenderness of Mother's Day marketing especially depressing this year. (Melodrama tends to chafe in the presence of real drama.) Instead, I find that the shell-shock is giving way to gratitude. Mom always said, "You've got to bloom where you're planted," and this year, I am planted in the reality of losing her, but I have the fertile ground of a happy childhood well hydrated with music, lovingkindness, and frequent trips to the library. Mom lived a creatively vibrant life of the mind, so Alzheimer's was a horrifically ironic way for her to die. She stubbornly refused to go easily and let us off the hook; in death as in life, she compelled the best from us, not because she bullied us but because she was so completely, tirelessly, respectfully present in all our lives. That kind of love is

Enter to Win a New Kindle Paperwhite!

Last week, my publisher, Montlake, sent me a lovely, brand new Kindle Paperwhite to celebrate the sales of my romantic suspense novel, Fatal Error !  It was a wonderful surprise, and I've been enjoying it so much that I've decided to give away another (sorry! you can't have mine!) along with a copy of The Best Victim (or any of my other books!) to celebrate the paperback, audio, and official Kindle e-release of The Best Victim . Entering is easy. Just  click the link  to find out how.

Win a Critique from Author Colleen Thompson

During the month of May, bid on a chance for to win my critique of the first 50 pages of your romantic suspense, suspense, or thriller, followed by a 30-minute follow-up meeting at the national RWA conference in San Antonio this July, or a follow-up phone consultation if you'd prefer. All proceeds to benefit  Author Brenda Novak 's Auction for Diabetes Research.

Invisible is the new black! Meet me & Jerusha at #SXSW Monday

They say everyone has a book in them. We say everyone has a spleen in them too. Either way, it takes a special skillset to take it out. In the new publishing universe, collaboration is key. With help from my daughter, freelance editor Jerusha Rodgers , I work with celebrities and other extraordinary people to create killer proposals and memorable memoirs. Monday at SXSW, I'll talk about the business of extracting stories with surgical precision while Jerusha gets down to brass tacks and tech savvy.  Tweet your questions to  @JoniRodgers and @TheRabid_Badger Hashtags: #ghostwriter, #SXSW

Favorite Fictional Pets: Enter to Win!

To celebrate the release of The Best Victim, which features an adorably feisty old dachshund named Dumpling, I'm giving away another $10 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book to readers who tell me the name of their favorite fictional animal. To enter this week's contest, please follow the link to my Rafflecopter giveaway!  Best of luck to you!

Win a $10 Amazon Gift Card!

To celebrate the release of The Best Victim in paperback, audio, and full e-book editions (April 22nd, Montlake) I'm running a Rafflecopter drawing to win a $10 Amazon gift card and a free download of the Kindle edition. Please visit my Facebook author page to enter and find out more about how you can increase your odds of winning!

Notes from the Research Vault: Can you trust your Caller ID?

In my upcoming release, THE BEST VICTIM , (earlier releasing as a Kindle Serial from Montlake) the protagonist is fooled into picking up the telephone by a "spoofed" Caller ID,  which makes it look as though the other party is a trusted caller. The truth is, it's all too commonly done, and so easy to do that anyone with web access can pull it off completely legally--as long as one claims it's being done as for "prank" or "entertainment" purposes. I've even done it myself while researching the book, calling a friend who was rather confused as to why she was getting a ring from The White House. But can you imagine the harm a stalker or scammer could do with this technology? Read more about spoofing in this article by David Lazarus of the LA Times.

Need a creative kick in the head? Read this bit from David Bayles' ART & FEAR

From Art & Fear by David Bayles : The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right side solely on the its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scale and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pounds of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".  Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and i

6 Things That Make Me Cry Laughing (Indulge me! It's my birthday!)

The past eight weeks, I've been in Montana with my mom, who is dying of Alzheimer's, and my dad, who is showing his true colors as a devoted and extraordinary caregiver. There's a garden level apartment below the main floor of their home, so I have plenty of living/office space, and he doesn't have to have me all up in his grill. He's created a place of peace and music. The sheer power of his love for her is humbling and wonderful. I cook breakfast and dinner every day and sit with Mom for about 90 minutes, playing ukelele and singing, reading from the Poetry Foundation iPhone app , holding her hand. She's no longer able to communicate really, but she seems to engage with the music and every once in a while, she breaks out in a huge smile. Most of the time, Mom is vacant or cries, as is typical with end stage Alzheimer's, but sometimes she laughs. Of course, I'd like to think that these are the moments she is most lucid, because laughter has always been

Make LOVE, Not Points

I have a strict rule in Words With Friends: Make LOVE, PEACE and JOY whenever and wherever possible, even if you don't score a lot of points for it.

Four books, one box, three bucks. Shaboom.

I've been boxed. Not like Rocky. Or like a turtle. But more like a turtle than like Rocky, but you know what I mean. Stella Link Books has released four of my novels in one sweet little ebook. Just $2.99 this week only, then it goes up to $6.99. And then it's only available for another 60 days. Then it goes back in the vault, and you'll have to buy the books individually again. So I hope you'll grab it now. Shaboom. Thank you.  Stormy Sexy Crazy Sweet digital box set includes:  SUGARLAND The quiet suburban lives of two pregnant sisters are shattered and rebuilt in this poignant modern retelling of the Psyche and Eros myth. “Richly appealing…” ~ Library Journal (starred review) “Bittersweet…priceless…” ~ Chicago Tribune “Every character resonates with life.” ~ Southern Living Magazine THE HURRICANE LOVER After Hurricane Katrina, a deadly game of cat and mouse unfolds and a stormy love affair is complicated by polarized politics and high-strung Southern families. “V

What is Joni's List?

What are you reading? I ask everyone. My friends, my sisters, my kids, the lady sitting next to me on the airplane, any dude who dates my daughter. The answers break ice, spark conversations, and speak volumes about who we are. And when I hop online to buy my a book, those personal recommendations mean a lot to me. The online book world is bloated with BS reviews. Fake raves, trolls flexing their muscles, blowholes who haven't read the book but can't resist venting. It's wise to "consider the source," right? How can we do that if we're not looking that person straight in the eye. That's why all my reviews here will be personal unedited videos . Me talking to you. Reader to reader. And I'll try to keep it under two minutes so we can both get back to the book we're reading. I'm a picky reader, but my reviews are overwhelmingly positive . If I love a book, I can't wait to talk about it. I'm happy to devote time and energy to sharing a gr