Guest Post! Starring Kelley Kaye

I have no idea what day it is, I just know it’s time for a post. Continuing our chat on the importance of reading (not just to my livelihood, but to your brains!), I’ve strapped Kelley Kaye down and insisted she give us a lesson-on-demand. Take it away, Kelley.

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Although my parents read books to me since birth (my father owned a used bookstore), I have also maintained that one big way I learned to read was by watching The Electric Company circa 1972. Do you remember that show? I loved the shadows talking to each other on the screen: BR.  EAK. Break. S. ING. Sing. Loved it!

So this is how the story goes. I’m three years old, and grandma has got me a book! I tear excitedly across the floor to my mother and say LOOK, grandma’s got me a book! Will you read me this book? And mom says, well, why don’t YOU read it to ME? So I do. And this is not a See Spot Run kind of book, I hear (I don’t remember, because I was three), but a legit story book. Mom was surprised. Did gramma already read you this book? she asks. Did Daddy? No, Mommy, I say. You asked me to read it to you, so I did!

And that was the beginning. My life since then has been a plethora, a myriad, a glut, multitude, overabundance, gross, nee a compendium of massive book love. I read books, sometimes (often) to the detriment of other things I should be doing (like homework, work, parenting, sleeping. Breathing), and my career(s) have always had something to do with books. Twenty years of teaching English, for example, and now I am living from both ends of the wire, and writing books.

As a teacher, I had a motto for which I became known: If You Don’t Like to Read, You Just Haven’t Found the Right Book Yet. I had a library in my classroom comprised of books from my dad’s store in every genre, every reading level, available for students to check out. I love nothing more than searching the psyche of my students to find out their interests. I listen, then twinkle my fingers over the collection, and voila! A book, often the perfect book, finds its way into the hands of my reluctant reader, and soon reluctance gives way to curiosity, experimentation, and finally, salivation. Salvation, too. Another human for whom getting lost in a book is better than sex. Okay, better than chocolate. Okay, okaaay. Better than almost anything else.

My favorite book story concerns a student from my first year of teaching: Elijah. I started my teaching career in Lake Tahoe, California, where the population was teeming with skiers. Skier kids (okay, usually snowboarder kids) are kinda like skater kids in any other town—they board to the beat of their own drum. Elijah was small and skinny, with very blonde hair that reached down to his shoulders and stuck out of a baseball cap that was always pulled clear down to his nose. He wore bellbottom jeans that were way too long, so the ends dragged along behind him in the dirt; they were his signature.

One of my classroom requirements was outside reading, anywhere from 300 to 800 pages of books of the student’s choosing. I let them pick for themselves because let’s face it: students often feel that the required reading for English is less than thrilling. When I shared my OR Requirement with Elijah’s class, along with my motto, Elijah confided in me that he’d never finished a whole book, and he was a freshman in high school!

So we talked for a while about his interests (snowboards, girls, animals) and why he didn’t like to read (books were too slow, books were boring) and after maybe ONE SECOND of thought, I gave him a book by Dean Koontz called The Watcher, a thriller about a boy and his dog. I told him to bring it back if he didn’t like it and we’d try another.

He brought it back a week later—I was disappointed that it hadn’t worked—usually Koontz is a sure-fire winner for bored readers. That’s not it! he said. I’m finished! Give me another! That year he read three Dean Koontz novels, way in excess of the 500 pages I had assigned his class. I went back to Tahoe during Elijah’s senior year and discovered he had read like 25 Koontz novels and was on to other thrillers.

I don’t know if he ever discovered a love for Jane Austen, but who cares? A reader is a reader is a reader. Once you’ve got the bug, it’s better than (almost) anything else. And if you don’t quite believe me, give me a call, because the only problem is you haven’t found the right books yet!

Kelley’s brains and books are available for you to stalk at the links below.

Death by Diploma on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Death-Diploma-Chalkboard-Outlines-Book-ebook/dp/B01BLUB9CK/

Death by Diploma Book Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAMXkR3kA-8

Kelley and Kat on The Rack http://www.darkcomedyprods.com/kkaye.html

Kelley Kaye’s Kozy Korner: https://www.facebook.com/authorkelleykaye/

Kelley Kaye on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kelkay1202

Kelley’s Website: http://www.kelleykaybowles.com/

***Death by Diploma will soon be out on AUDIOBOOK!

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Guest Post with author Jeannie Zokan

In today’s guest post (I know it’s not Friday, shut up), I discovered a kindred spirit in Jeannie and her little black book of, well, books.

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In the summer of 2004, I started keeping track of each book I read in a little notebook. I considered making an entry about the books, but decided to keep it simple and just note the title and author. If it turned into work, I wouldn’t do it. Now, this 3-inch notebook, stored in my bedside table, has become an interesting book in its own right.

For one thing, I’m amazed at how many self-help books I go through. And how many titles I immediately remember, like names of close friends. They evoke a vivid image of where I was when I read a certain passage or the conversation I had about it for book club. There were, however, some titles that didn’t leave an impression on me. What was Three Junes about again?

The eclectic nature of the list in my notebook surprises me. I make no sense, and maybe that’s why there are so many self-help books. But how can I consider Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible as one of my favorites books when I’ve read everything scifi writer Douglas Adams wrote? I can see the links to Dave Barry and Bill Bryson, but how to explain The Fault In Our Stars by John Green? Or Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Or Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic?

Of course, that’s the beauty of reading . The next book that finds its way onto my list doesn’t have to fit into a category. The heart wants what it wants, and I just enjoy the delicious journey a good book always provides.

And since I know you’re curious, a few of the self-help books on the list are How to Think Like Einstein, Style on a Shoestring, and The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell You.

Happy Reading!

 

Jeannie Zokan’s debut novel, The Existence of Pity, was released in October 2016 by Red Adept Publishing.

You can follow her on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authorJeannieZokan/

on twitter:   https://twitter.com/JoZokan

Her blog: www.jeanniezokan.blogspot.com

And her webpage: www.jeanniezokan.com

PAN IS COMING – A Giveaway!

It’s Monday and I’m back in the seat after having spent two weeks on honeymoon hiatus. I KNOW. YOU’RE THRILLED.

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Ain’t she GORGEOUS?

My newest novel, ALL DARLING CHILDREN, is being released on Thursday, Oct 20th as an e-book (with the paperback to follow shortly after), and I want to give away a few of them because nothing makes Mondays better than free books.

So, to be entered, head over to my Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/katrinamonroewriter/ – give it a like, and I’ll select three winners at random on release day to receive an e-book copy on me!

As always, I’ll ask the winners (if they’re so inclined) to leave a review on Amazon once they’ve finished. Reviews really help in getting a writer’s work seen, so ANY book you’ve read and loved (or even not loved), drop a line or two on the ol’ Zon.

Cheers and good luck!

Guest Post with Stephen Kozeniewski

Happy Friday! This week, it’s Stephen Kozeniewski (author of BRAINEATER JONES and HUNTER OF THE DEAD) on the blog, chatting a bit about re-reading books.

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There’s a lot of pearl-clutching these days about what kids won’t get to do that their parents got to do because, you know, every generation has to live identically to the generation before it or else society just, like, completely fucking breaks down.  Just like, you know, the Greatest Generation didn’t live the way their parents did and then the universe imploded in the ‘40s.  I don’t want this to be one of those posts, because those posts are universally stupid and no, I am not being hyperbolic, they are, to a one, completely and utterly moronic.
So this is more of an elegiac post than a condemnatory one.  But I do wonder if kids in the future will ever know what it’s like to have a battered, dog-eared copy of a book that they’ve read cover-to-cover a hundred times.  I mean, maybe they will.  I don’t know.  I don’t know what the future holds.  (Except that the next generation will condemn the one after that.)
But I was thinking about it the other day, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve re-read a book.  I mean, with the internet, there’s so much new content blasting my eyeholes every day I can’t even keep up with one tenth of one tenth of a percent of the stuff I’d actually like to keep abreast of, let alone have a broad knowledge base of the world.  I have to settle for reading a paragraph-long review of a video game I might like to play and hoping I get the gist because I just don’t have 80 hours to devote to playing it, but I want to be knowledgeable about games.  And hell, if I do play a game, then that’s like, six seasons of TV I didn’t blast through on Netflix.
It didn’t used to be this way.  I had magazines – magazines, for God’s sake – that I used to read through so many times that I can still picture the photographs in my mind.  Single issues of “Boy’s Life” and “Nintendo Power” that were just, like, all I had.  So every rainy Sunday or boring weekday afternoon I’d re-read them.  I read every “Warhammer” rulebook I owned more times than I ever played the game.
And then there was THE HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY.  I’d be lying if I said I haven’t read that entire series dozens, possibly hundreds of times.  In the tire swing.  In the treehouse.  At school between (and sometimes during) classes.  One night when the power went out and all we had were flashlights.  One night when my father wasn’t working for some reason and we all went out and got McDonald’s.  At my egg donor’s job on more than one occasion when I had to come in with her.
I mean, right now the thought of re-reading something is just so laughably out of the realm of possibility for me.  As I write this, I’m looking at four fat stacks of physical books that I own and ought to have read years ago.  That’s not even counting all the favors I owe in the form of books I should be reading that I just plain haven’t bought yet.  Or all the sorts of hints and dodges that I give people that sort of suggest I’ve maybe read their work while desperately hoping they never point blank ask.
Ingesting a book, grokking it, letting it become a part of you, that’s certainly a dead part of my life.  I don’t know if it’s the times (man) or just my age, or just me personally.  But I do wonder about kids.  I don’t know if they’ll have a HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE (or whatever) the way I did.  Maybe all kids do.  Maybe they ingest books a hundred thousand times because that’s what you do when you’re a kid.  I don’t know if I even want them to.  Maybe it’s better not to do that, and to spend that time wisely broadening your horizons.  I mean, I didn’t.  Then again, I’m a frood who really knows where my towel is, so, you know, I guess it’s kind of a trade-off.

It’s Here, and It’s Beautiful – REAPER Cover Reveal

Guys.

Last night I got the best email since signing with Melange Books to publish my book, REAPER.

You remember REAPER – it’s the one I bitched about for months because Renee guilted me into doing NaNoWriMo with her. Yes, in the end she was right, but we won’t tell her that.

If you’ve forgotten (and how DARE you), here’s a blurb to jog your memory:

The Department of Creative Death and Ironic Punishment. This is where writers go when they die.

Oz, an employee of The Department, is mostly content doling out death from his ancient typewriter, until he wins the office lottery. The prize? A new assignment – to return to the world of the living as a Reaper.

At first, Oz sees this new assignment as a blessing. He is given a body and a second chance at life, but then, during a lesson with a surly, seasoned Reaper named Bard, Oz is forced to watch a childhood friend die. Shaken, Oz questions his willingness to do the job he’s won.

With each new lesson, Oz begins to wonder if the job of Reaper is really a prize or a punishment.

Anyway, after months of agonizing over the fate of my first ever big girl publication, I have a cover.

And, guys? I fucking love it. I know you will too.

 

BEHOLD:

 

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Short Fiction Monday – “The Writer”

I submitted this story to a local short-short competition. Although it was a finalist, it didn’t win. I hope you enjoy it, then write your own short-short. What’s the best story you can tell with the fewest number of words?

 

“The Writer”

It was every bit of December outside. The writer didn’t have a pen but he was determined to get his story out before it turned putrid in his gut.

His mind swam and his tongue was cotton. He needed another drink. 

A moment of reflection, then, release. He had to do it quickly. To get it out. To get her out.

“You’re drunk,” a voice said behind him.

The writer shrugged. Shimmied. Zipped. The purge left him lighter.

Her name would sit, steaming and yellow, where he’d written it, forever. Or at least until Spring.

Storytelling Here

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There’s a story my mother likes to tell people when they hear that I’m a writer. It goes something like this:

When Katrina was in kindergarten, her teacher, Mrs. Fowler (silly woman) asked to talk to me after school one day. She sat Katrina down and asked her to read some stupid ‘See Spot Run’ book and was absolutely flabbergasted that she was able to read the entire thing without stumbling. So I said to Mrs. Fowler, “Watch this.” I pulled out my pocket bible and handed it to Katrina. She flipped to a random page and began to read.

 

Now, the only reason I know this story to be true is that I remember that day. The part I remember most vividly is that, to distract me, Mrs. Fowler asked me to start counting while she spoke to my mother. I was an easily bored child. 

I’ve always loved words. I read my mother’s Stephen King and Nora Roberts novels when I was in sixth grade because I was bored with everything in my middle school library. I wanted a challenge.

When I was nine, I wrote my first story. It was called “The Girl and the Elf.” Pretty self explanatory as to what it was about. It wasn’t for school. I just wanted to write. 

I’m telling you this to attempt to explain the beginnings of my passion for STORY. A passion, I think, has begun to dwindle in mainstream fiction. 

I like ALL stories – fictional, historical, anecdotal. There’s magic in story. In the telling of a tale that transports the reader (or listener) to a different plane of existence. It is the ultimate means of escape and the best ones make the reader forget they are holding a book in their hands. 

As I’ve grown older and grown into the Writer pants I slipped into years ago, I’ve begun to notice that it takes longer and more exhaustive searching to find those special novels that really trap you between their pages. Why is that?

There are some GREAT writers out there – seasoned and new, but it’s almost impossible to find their work in the sea of shit that sloshes the shelves of bookstores, now. It’s mind-boggling how books like the Twilight series and Fifty Shades can dominate the coveted front and center tables of even the small bookstores and novels like Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, and others have to be hunted for.

My generation has the greatest number of tools at their disposal to date, and I’m disappointed in the lack of contribution to literary creations. Where did our imagination go? If you say television and video games, I’m going to surprise the shit out of you and call shenanigans. It’s laze. That’s right. The old fuckers who give us the stink eye are right (in this case). We would rather be told stories than tell our own – and they’d better be easy stories, too. Ones we can process without having to think too much. Oh, and sex. There has to be A LOT of sex.

Gross, isn’t it?

We need to revive a love of story. It’s how we started as a species. We didn’t create language to bitch at each other. We did it to tell stories.

Writers, I encourage you to expect more from yourselves. Don’t sell yourself short. Explore the ways that stories could be told. Be different. Allow yourselves to be a little bit nuts without worrying whether your work is “sellable.” Dig into the stories of others. Read. Listen. Learn.

Non-writers, I encourage you to demand more from your storytellers. We’re listening.