Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Visiting with the Sts. Peter & Paul Book Club

Book club appearances are a wonderful opportunity to spend time with readers and obtain some great feedback. They also spark some fascinating discussions. Last night, I visited the Saints Peter and Paul Book Club in Naperville, all of whom happen to live in the same town as my fictional Bibliophiles. These ladies have been together for a very impressive fifteen years, and I have to say, they are quite a lovely bunch.

It was interesting talking with them about A Whisper to a Scream, because they were all older, mostly of my mother’s generation, and brought a different perspective to the characters of Sarah and Annie. Most were sympathetic for Annie and her infertility issues, but Sarah, the stay-at-home mom, didn’t fare as well.

A good majority were stay-at-home mothers themselves back in the day, many with more than two children, and I got the sense they wanted Sarah to suck it up and go about her business. That was how it was when they had kids, right? Women didn’t have many choices. You got married. You raised the children. The husbands worked. Period. We had a fantastic conversation about the stages of womanhood and the differences between their generation and mine, as well as the changing roles of men in their children’s lives.

Of the two that did work, one said that after reading Whisper she had a better understanding of what stay-at-home mothers do every day even to the point of telling her younger neighbors with multiple children how much she admired them.

They reminded me a lot of my mother to whom Whisper is dedicated. She died several years before it came out, and I wonder now what her response would have been. She was exceedingly competent, my mom. An executive secretary to the vice president of a brokerage company on LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago before I was born, my father always said she was the one with the head for business of the two of them. Yet, she had dreamed of being a stay-at-home mother and became the consummate house manager. She always made me feel special, was in the front row of every performance I did, and made holidays magical.

I love hanging out with women of that generation. They have a soothing sense of calm that my friends and I don’t. Ours is more of a “run this kid there, move this kid here, work is nuts, watch kid’s game” kind of energy, very valid and fun for now, but as I get older, I must confess is becoming a bit much.

One of the oldest women there was eighty (certainly didn’t look it). Her husband had died thirty-five years ago, so she got a part-time job to help pay the bills while raising their eight children. Amazing.

Our wonderful night together ended all too soon, but I left with a strong sense of gratitude, thankful to have been welcomed by such a kind group of women, happy that they enjoyed the book, and blessed that I was able to spend some time with them.

Book club graphic courtesy of Mary Vensel White's blog Shimmer in the Darkness: Thoughts on Writing, Living, and Living with Writing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's All About the Characters

Have you seen Lost in Austen? It’s a 2008 British four-part series about a modern-day woman in love, not with her boyfriend who proposes in a drunken stupor and offers a beer can tab for an engagement ring, but rather with Pride and Prejudice and its world of courtship, romance, and manners. She finds a mysterious portal in her bathroom through which Elizabeth Bennet travels, and they swap places. 

So, basically, this movie is crack for Jane Austen lovers, and you know how much I love Jane Austen.

Every time I see it, I get chills when Amanda Price walks down the hall of the Bennet home and overhears Mrs. Bennet moaning about her nerves and Lydia’s ever-present giggles. And the assembly ball! Oh my god, it’s Darcy!  

In Stranger Than Fiction, I cry when I see Will Farrell’s character, Harold Crick, walk into Emma Thompson’s office. That moment of recognition, of “It’s really you,” gets me every time. 

About a year or two ago, I was at a stoplight in downtown Naperville, the Chicago suburb where all of the book club members from my Bibliophiles series eventually end up living. A thin woman with straight blonde hair dressed in monochromatic taupe crossed the street in front of my van. “It’s Annie!” I thought, from A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One). I craned my neck for a better look, but she had disappeared among the crowd walking down Washington Street.

It happened again the other day at Trader Joe’s. I grabbed a bag of arugula and turned to put it in my basket, when a woman who looked just like Edwina Hipplewhite appeared. (Edwina is the moderator of the Bibliophiles’ book club.) She was even dressed like how I would imagine and wore the same expression I had envisioned so many times before! I got chills. 

Magical and surreal, I couldn’t shake the feeling something of cosmic importance had just occurred, that some sort of fiction-reality continuum had been breached. You see, writers spend so much time with all of their characters, it’s impossible not to fall in love, with some more than others, of course, but even the unpleasant ones have some interesting qualities. 

That’s what happened to me when I was writing Whisper. As I created the book club scenes, I began to adore the bibliophiles and felt compelled to write each of their individual stories. Right now, I am doing some “world building,” assembling the neighborhood and family of Thaddeus’ boyhood. I absolutely love this part of the writing process—the research, the history of an area, how everything comes together—it’s so much fun! 


Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Bibliophile Christmas FREE July 18-22

Tired of scorching hot weather? Humidity? Your kids? I know I am.

Just kidding on the last one. I love having my guys home for the summer. ((wink))

Well, grab an iced mocha or chai, turn the AC up, and settle on in with "A Bibliophile Christmas," my mid-year gift to you FREE on Amazon July 18 through July 22. Here's the link.

Sarah Anderson and Annie Jacobs have not had the best of years. And now, here come the holidays.


Sarah's husband Tom is stuck in Boston after a nor'easter dumps a foot of snow on the day he is scheduled to leave for home. And Annie is working hard at picking up the pieces of her life after a painful divorce. 

But, maybe with a little help from their friends, Christmas won't be a total wash after all.

Five stars! "Great book to put you in the Christmas spirit. I am now on a mission to read more of Berner's books. I loved the characters and how they are introduced."
— Amazon reviewer

Four stars! "At turns funny, frustrating (at least for the characters), and touching, 'A Bibliophile Christmas' is a fun read that will be appreciated by fans of Berner's series or anyone looking to get into the holiday spirit. Chances are you'll recognize situations you've experienced yourself. Four stars."
—BigAl's Books & Pals

Monday, July 15, 2013

Editing for Grammarphobes: Monday Vocabulary List

I know it's summer, but I couldn't resist giving you all a traditional Monday vocabulary list like back in our school days.

I came across these while researching archaic words for Thaddeus Mumblegarden to use in the third Bibliophiles book (title yet to be determined). He is a true logophile (lover of words) and is particularly chuffed about Brit Speak. The first of two men in the Bibliophiles book club, Thaddeus yearned to major in English in college, but was forced to do something "more practical" by his ex-jock father and now trudges his way through unfulfilling days as a computer programmer. Wonder what he will find to free him from this ennui?

I had a great time proudly flying my word nerd flag and learning all of these new terms. How many do you know?

Blatherskite: One who will not stop talking.

Discophora: A group of jellyfish.

Naupathia: Sea sickness.

Rectalgia: A pain in the butt.

Redactophobia: A fear of editing and/or editors. (I kid you not!)

Rustication: Taking a trip to the countryside.

Saulie: A person who is hired to mourn.

Self-aggrandize: To make oneself more attractive by artificial means.

Snurl: To turn one's nose up in scorn.

Zob: A worthless person.

For more rare and obscure words, check out the Grandiloquent Dictionary.

Monday, July 8, 2013

July Sale: Bibliophiles Books 50% Off at Smashwords

To celebrate summer (or winter, if you are in the southern hemisphere), Smashwords is having a July Summer/Winter Sale, which features some great ebooks for anywhere from 25% to 75% off. Click here  to download titles for iPad, Nook, Sony, Kobo, or any free reading app.

A Whisper to a Scream or Until My Soul Gets It Right are both on sale there for 50% off until July 31.

A Whisper to a Scream has been hailed for its “fluid prose and realistic dialogue” and has been called “a vivid portrayal of contemporary marriage.” Praised by Publishers Weekly for its “fearless truthfulness,” the novel centers around Sarah, a stay-at-home mother of two, and Annie, a PR executive dealing with fertility issues. When they meet through a classics book club, each thinks the other ones life is so much better than her own. But ultimately, they learn otherwise.

Click here to purchase on Smashwords

Called a “wicked fun” novel of “self-discovery, redemption, and forgiveness,” Until My Soul Gets It Right follows farm girl Catherine Elbert as she bounces from U.S. coast to coast in search of her true self. A 2013 Readers’ Choice Nominee for Contemporary Fiction at the widely popular BigAl’s Books & Pals review blog, it is a story about growing up, making peace with one’s past, and finding a little love along the way.

Click here to purchase on Smashwords

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrate Indie-pendence Day

Happy 4th of July, Americans! 

Today is a great day for backyard barbecues, fireworks, and books, of course. Several former Flash Fiction Fridays contributors, as well as a few of my writer blog buddies, have been nominated in the eFestival of Words Best of Independent eBook Awards contest. 

Please show them your support by clicking here to be directed to the site, register, then proceed to the Awards Hall to begin voting. 

Here's a list of my favorite nominees.

Best Novel: Cosette's Tribe by Leah Griffith

Best Short Story: They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing by Jack Urquhart

Best Short Story Collection: If I Had My Way by Lena Sledge

Best General Fiction: Cosette's Tribe by Leah Griffith

Best Literary Fiction: Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris

Congratulations on your nominations and good luck!