5 Book Reviews + Alitta’s Poem + Podcast

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The Happiness Between Tails podcast speaks to and from the heart. Like its corresponding blog, HBT also connects book lovers and writers who'll enjoy the novels I’m drafting, which will soon become podcasts I will totally narrate. “Flamenco + the Sitting Cat" and “Tango + the Sitting Cat” are my love letters to all who fear they're too old, too damaged, too whatever to find love and happiness with or without a partner. HappinessBetweenTails.com • ContactdaAL@gmail.com Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee at buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT — Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/depe9/support

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Now that I’ve decided to try again to attract a literary agent for my novel, I’ve spent a lot of time working up the ‘perfect’ (as if such a thing exists) thumbnail, elevator pitch, and synopsis. They’re finally decent, so next in line are an agent letter and a list of agents who represent my type of writing.

What gets me through the ensuing terror and drudgery of it all is listening to audiobooks. People are forever asking me how I manage to get through so many. The first hour or so, I listen on regular speed, to get a feel for the sensibility. After that, I start upping the speed, depending on how much I can focus I can devote at the moment, what the book is like, and how crisply the reader enunciates. It’s amazing how quickly many short listens here and there can add up, like while I’m working out, cooking, brushing my teeth, walking my dog, making the bed, or whatever.

Here are the reviews I wrote for Amazon and Goodreads for what I’ve listened to most recently…

Cover of All You Can Ever Know, by Nicole Chung.

Love, family, politics, prejudice, our place in the world… Born to Korean parents who gave her away to anglo parents who raised her among only anglos, Nicole Chung’s experience offers us a chance to ponder. From a practical viewpoint, she shares with it was like for her, first as a child and now as a mother. Relatable to anyone who has ever felt different, known a family, or experienced inequality. Janet Song does a lovely audio narration.

Cover of The Answers by Catherine Lacey, narrated by Megan Tusing.

Love, emotion, and attachment contemplated through the eyes of a woman who resorts to submitting to a sociopath in order to pay her medical bills. What’s it like to be a super star who’s lost the ability for compassion? What’s it like to be his girlfriend, a living mannequin following a script? Great premise and well written, but cynical in the worst victim-minded sense. Megan Tusing offers a validating audiobook performance.

Cover of Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory, narrated by Janina Edwards.

Stumbled onto this as I don’t gravitate to romance genre, but was intrigued by the rare depiction of older romance. So glad that Gillory didn’t disappoint. Though must admit that I was only able to appreciate the super gentle pace and low-level tension when I read an interview with Gillory, wherein she discussed her underlying the theme of ‘consent.’

Cover of The Old Woman with the Knife: A Novel by Gu Byeong-mo, translator Chi-Young, Nancy Wu narrator.

How can anyone not fall in love with a protagonist who is an assasin-for-hire, 65-year-old woman about to be put out to pasture? Shame on her would-be assigned murderers who underestimate her… Nancy Wu does a great job narrating. Adding to the intrigue is that the audiobook publisher is a division of Harlequin Romance despite this being anything but a romance novel.

Cover of People Person by Candice Carty-Williams, narrator Danielle Vitalis.

You’ve got 4 half-siblings via a dad who fathered everyone via four moms. Haha, he calls himself a ‘people person.’ You don’t have a relationship with any of them, outside of your own mother, and the worst possible thing happens to you. Now what? Novelist Carty-Williams’ madcap story is underpinned with a serious rumination on acceptance and forgiveness; who, how, and is it worth it? Danielle Vitalis is a wonderful narrator.

Today’s guest, Alitta, blogs (and is also on Instagram) from Kerala, which is in Southern India. A part time content writer and a full time chartered accountant student, she’s taking a break from the finance world to explore freelancing and writing. She describes her poetry and blog posts as combinations of wittiness, emotion, and thoughts with sarcasm and dark humor with a light at the end of the tunnel. In this poem, she ponders, in her words, how a person feels initially after a breakup, when  nothing feels right and everything becomes taxing…

Rear View by Alitta

Months passed, the loss persists,

Writing helped, but the pain still exists,

Deeply sceptical about love and wrath,

But I’d promised to never lose faith.

Moving in is mutual, I wish moving on was too,

Sleep is easy after a pill or two,

Waking up with that fake smile is constant,

None of which would have happened. If you weren’t so distant.

The sweeping fierceness which my soul betrayed,

The skill with which wielded the keen blade;

The bright world dim, and everything beside

Seemed like the fleeting image of a shade.

Which no thought of living spirit could abide.

I breathe but it’s not air,

Something else in the wind,

Calm and empty, a rush of silence,

Yet plenty and whole, a vacuum of stillness,

I seem to have been paused 

somewhere along the way. 

Now it’s time to resume,

Heading towards the start of the play,

No drum rolls, no intros,

Just a smooth shift of state

In, then, out of time,

A second, maybe less,

Growth, taking up an instant,

Change, stealing away each moment,

Set to sail on the turbulent waves,

Whose effects are none to

 the eyes that witness,

To the ears that listen and

 to the hands that touch…

Wishing that maybe

Maybe my soul was carried away, 

out into the openness,

Beyond the horizon, 

Across the marvels of the universe ,

Perhaps even closer to home,

Maybe there’s a world bigger than the world,

A world that never talks,

A world that never betrays.

What gets you through a fearful project?

Let’s Make Every Week Banned Books Week! by da-AL

Persepolis is discussed by a UK teen on youtube video about Banned Book Week.

Does the threat of a book being banned ensure that it’s among the finest books written? Check out the fantastic examples cited by the smart folks in this 29-second video (and pat yourself on the back if you smile when “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is discussed — *see end of this post for why)…

Banned Book Week needs to be every week of the year! Started in the U.S., the now international event has been honored every last week of September since 1982.

* Whereas the girl in the video remembers the story as happening in South America during the 1920s, here’s how Wikipedia tells it: “The story takes place during three years (1933–35) of the Great Depression in the fictional “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama, the seat of Maycomb County.”

Once my novels-in-progress are published, I hope they’re not banned! How many potentially banned books have you read?

My Road to Getting Published by Geoffrey Simpson

The story of how author Geoffrey Simpson, who just released “The Three Hares,” got his first book published — in his own words…

Geoffrey Simpson, author of The Three Hares
Geoffrey Simpson, author of The Three Hares

On a gloomy January morning, the air was heavy and uninspired. I read an article about ancient symbols—a distraction from those about politics, rife with propaganda. One symbol, with three rabbits chasing one another in an infinite circle, struck a chord. A whirlwind flooded my conscience.

Although I’ve never written before, a few story ideas were tucked away for a rainy day. That same morning, I began to plot. That same gloomy day was the beginning of an adventurous journey to becoming an author. 

Three months later, manuscript in hand and an intent to self-publish, an author friend of the family strongly encouraged me to find an editor. I hadn’t planned on investing in this project, but I also never expected to write a novel. 

As an author, I’ve transitioned through two distinct phases. There was pre-Janet, and post-Janet. As you probably assumed, Janet Fix, owner of thewordverve inc., agreed to become my editor, mentor, and inspirer.

With a polished manuscript and newfound confidence, I changed course from self-publishing and sought an agent. A thrilling adventure began, but as the queries went out, the feedback was unanimous. “Unfortunately, I’m not the right agent for this project.” Not a single manuscript request came forth.

Discouraged and circling back toward self-publishing, I spoke to Janet the Inspirer. She, who wasn’t just an editor, was transitioning her business from hybrid to traditional publishing, asked me to join Team Verve.

Twelve months after that gloomy January morning, Janet became my publisher, and there’s no looking back. Today, Janet is editing the sequel to The Three Hares, and I am writing the third installment of this five-book YA adventure/mystery series. It is this partnership/friendship which has made all the difference.

Cover of Geoffrey Simpson's book, The Three Hares

I’ve got two novels I’m writing. What are your experiences with traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?

My Personal Path to Self-Publishing by Lisa Kentgen, Ph.D.

When it comes to publishing, deciding which route to take can be a challenge.

For the traditional route, once an author writes a book, they sign on with an agent or publishing house. The author shares a hefty percentage of the sales, in exchange for the agent doing everything involved in getting attention and sales.

A self-publisher keeps all the money — but does everything, including possible hiring of an editor and book designer, buying advertising, etc.

New York City psychologist, Lisa Kentgen, Ph.D., debuted, “An Intentional Life: Five Foundations of Authenticity and Purpose,” June 2018. Here how she went about it…

Cover of, "An Intentional Life" by Lisa Kentgen

Turning down a book contract was a painful decision. My book emphasizes listening to your internal voice. My voice told me I wouldn’t be happy signing a contract that didn’t feel mutual. The morning after making this decision the idea for my next book came to me. I then knew self-publishing was the right path.

Two things were clear. 1) I would create a publishing imprint to house this and future books. 2) I would be intimately part of the process.

Creating a publishing imprint meant establishing an LLC. Its mission is broad enough to cover other professional activities, like public speaking, so that my writing will be an essential part of my professional life.

Photo of author Lisa Kentgen by Todd Estrin Photography
Photo of author Lisa Kentgen by Todd Estrin Photography

There are reputable companies, like Girl Friday Productions, that help authors from concept to final production. I believe they quoted me $16,000. I chose not to go with this sort of company because I had a manuscript that already was far along and, also, it means not taking the lead in creating my team. Establishing my team meant spending hours finding a top quality editor, cover designer, and interior designer.

I was fortunate enough to find a developmental editor who is the vice president of a publishing company. She had me reduce my manuscript by 30%. She told me that while I don’t like telling people what to do (I am a psychologist) – as a writer I needed to be more directive. After a major edit, I hired another editor to polish the final manuscript.

For book design, I chose Reedsy, an online company that has wonderful professionals for hire. Inexpensive cover designs cost around $500. For an experienced, artistic designer it is closer to $1000. My cover designer was so good that I persuaded him to do my interior design which cost about $2000.

I learned the hard way that what makes for a beautiful physical book creates complications for the ebook. (Suggestion: Make a copy of the interior before getting fancy!) Creating the ebook to look like the physical copy proved difficult. I had no way to assess the actual skill level of designers. The first person misrepresented their experience, and I paid $450 for something I couldn’t use. The next person charged $500 and what I wanted took more time than estimated–so we negotiated a higher price.

My experience creating the audiobook with Brickshop Audio in Brooklyn was a pleasure. The audiobook, with production help, costs $250 per finished hour. My 55,000-word book (on ACX) cost $1650.

I recommend my path to authors who enjoy creating a business and who have the time and desire to address countless creative details. It means a lot more work upfront, but having finished products closer to your vision. I am excited to take what I have learned to new ventures!

Quote by Lisa Kentgen: Living with intention you understand that your interests are intimately bound to the well-being of others.

What do you think of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?