Showing posts from 2013

Yuletide 2013

Thank you for spending time with me this year. I truly appreciate all of you and look forward to a 2014 filled with discussing great books, new takes on the classics, and many other bibliophilic adventures. Who knows, maybe the new year will herald the return of Editing for Grammarphobes???
I'm going to take the next two weeks off to spend time with my family. Hope you enjoy all of the celebrations of the season. See you in January!
Wishing you fun, laughter, inspiration, and a touch of magic both now and throughout the new year. 
Happy Holidays, my friends.

Catherine's Christmas in Maine


As Christmas draws near, I thought I would share an excerpt from my second novel, Until My Soul Gets It Right, which follows farm girl Catherine Elbert as she bounces from coast to coast in search of her true self in a story about growing up, making peace with one’s past, and finding a little love along the way.

This chapter is Catherine's first Christmas away from her family's farm in Wisconsin.

Chapter Ten
By Karen Wojcik Berner

This year, Catherine Elbert would be celebrating her first Christmas as a free woman, far away from the farm. Since her only experiences were in Burkesville, Catherine had no idea what normal people did for the holidays. Did Mainers stuff lobsters? She chuckled to herself. She would find out soon enough at Patsy’s house tomorrow.
Fresh Christmas Trees. The lot was almost empty now except for a few half-dead scrawny pines.
“I’ll take the wreath, please.”
“Sure, miss. Merry Christmas to you.”

Classic Lit for the Holiday Season


My series, The Bibliophiles, delves into the lives of suburban classics book club members. In the first two novels, they have discussed such masterpieces as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, As You Like It, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Tales, and The Scarlet Letter.

Now that the holiday season has rolled around, here are some of my recommendations for Christmas literature sure to inspire.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: This quintessential holiday story is still as relevant today as it was when Dickens wrote it in 1843. Although there are many wonderful screen adaptations, nothing beats reading the novella. Besides, you would miss out on such great prose and gorgeous descriptions as the ones below.

"External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.&…

Books and Baubles: Holiday Tales for Your E-Reader

Books make excellent gifts, but I'm sure a bunch of Bibliophiles like you already know that.

They also can get us in the mood for the holiday season. One of my favorite things to do is cozy up in my favorite chair (the one with the best view of the Christmas tree) with a chai latte and a festive story.

So here's something you can do for yourself, a little treat just for you as a reward for all of the running around the holidays can bring.

Friend of the blog Karen Cantwell (author of the Barbara Marr series of cozy mysteries) and I have teamed up once again to pick a group of great stories for the Christmas season on BOOKS AND BAUBLES: HOLIDAY TALES FOR E-READER, all for under $5.

There are gift ideas, movie suggestions, and classic Christmas lit, too.

Two lucky winners will also receive a $25 Amazon gift card. Who couldn't use some extra cash around the holidays? Just click on the giveaway page to enter. Good luck!

Thanksgiving 2013


I believe most people will not have time to read blogs this week, whether they be cooking up a storm in anticipation of a lovely feast or picking up their relatives from airports, bus terminals, and train stations, so I'm going to keep it short and sweet.
Thank you for sharing your time with me throughout the year. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

#NaNoWriMo, Crutches, and Me


I can't believe November's almost over.

I had decided to do my own version of NaNoWriMo this month, and was blissfully working on my super-secret WIP, when a Baker's cyst ruptured behind my knee. I never knew what a Baker's cyst was, muchless knew I had one. Unfortunately, I have been on crutches for almost two weeks now. 
The upside of all this is that the only thing I can really do while sitting with my leg elevated is read and write. No chores. No cooking. No errands. No anything, really. I have pretty much been a shut-in, except for one doctor visit and my son's orchestra concert, for which I was going to drag my sorry ass out no matter what. He had a solo, and I was determined to see it. (He killed it, by the way. His father and I are very proud.)
Although I won't make my initial deadline of a solid first draft before Thanksgiving, I do have 20,000 more words than I did before the rupture, so I'm happy with that. I have al…

Do You Have a Kindle or Use the App?

The first book in my Bibliophiles series, A Whisper to a Scream, is on sale from now until November 11 at Amazon. It is available on Kindle for only $1.99.

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.

Don't Fear the Reaper


When did Halloween first cast it’s spell on you?

For me, it was at age five, when I got to dress up as an angel for school, play games and have a party instead of class, and then go trick-or-treating before Mom’s delicious meal of homemade beef stew, eaten by candlelight, listening to ghost stories on the radio. After dinner, I spread out all of my candy before me and watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on television. Perfection.

The more involved I was in theater, the more elaborate the costumes became. A scarecrow, with my tummy stuffed with straw. A geisha, umbrella twirling in the costume parade. The junior high years were a low costume-wise, the usual teenaged awkwardness preventing me from truly expressing myself. Same with high school. College brought a resurgence of my Halloween joy, especially when I took children’s theater and had access to the costume room.  A friend and I went as Mozart’s mistresses, complete with corseted dress and …

What do the NY Knicks and Washington Irving Have in Common?


I dug up this literary tidbit while I was doing some research recently. It links American literature with basketball and even Halloween. Who needs Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon when you have this?

Okay, so you know the team the New York Knicks, right? Have you ever wondered what a "Knick" is?

Well, it turns out, the New York Knickerbockers were named after a pseudonym Washington Irving (of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" fame) used when he wrote the satirical A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, Diedrich Knickerbocker.

A 'knickerbocker" refers to the style of pants the Dutch settlers wore in the 1600s, pants that rolled up under the knee, or "knickers." In his work, Irving used it to describe a New Yorker who could trace his or her ancestry back to the original Dutch settlers.

Washington Irving was so popular, the Knickerbocker became synonymous with New York.

To read mor…

It's Going to be a Great Week


I'm the featured author this week on Awesome Trilogies and Series, a website by the very awesome William LK. I'm delighted to join the ranks of amazing authors such as Hugh Howey, Helen Smith, Karen Cantwell, and Donna Fasano.

Click here to see what my favorite book and movie series are, plus a how I was inspired to become a writer in high school.

This is going to be a great week. How could it not? Halloween is Thursday, and, you probably know this by now, it's my favorite holiday. Later on in the week, I'll tell you why.

Happy Monday,

Look at Me — I'm on the Radio!


A few weeks ago, I did my first radio interview, and I have to say, it was a great time. I was a guest on "The Dolly Mc Carthy Show" on blogtalkradio. She's a news anchor for WGN-TV in Chicago. I met Dolly at a book club appearance I did for A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) last year at this fantastic Irish pub in our neighborhood, Quigley's.

She was very generous with the time allotted for my spot, and, actually, it was just like if we were hanging out chatting on the phone. Dolly's a lovely woman who does a lot for the community.

So without further ado, here is my interview. Fast-forward to about 20:40 — that should bring you very close to my spot.

Oates Brings Back Old-School Gothic with 'The Accursed'


The Accursed
By Joyce Carol Oates
Ecco (March 5, 2013)
688 pages

The Accursed is a masterpiece, a writing tour de force. Joyce Carol Oates flexes her considerable literary might to create an old-school Gothic tale that is not for anyone looking for a “quick read.” It is far more in-depth and complicated for that.

Narrated by M.W. Van Dyck II, a local historian attempting to make sense of the alleged Crosswicks Curse that plagued Princeton, New Jersey, during fourteen months from 1905 to 1906. Through various journals, letters, and other such documents, we meet the townspeople, including historical figures Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, and Upton Sinclair.

This is not “Oates does Paranormal.” In the vein of nineteenth-century stories, the horror is implied rather than overt, and the demons and vampires much more sly. The true fright is how the curse manifests itself in the townspeople, as well as who and what are ultimately responsible. Here, Oates takes …

A Halloween Bash for the Books


Each year on the first weekend of October, my house changes. Usually a run-of-the-mill, suburban domicile, the front yard becomes a graveyard. Ghoulish creatures lurk behind bushes. Spider webs cover deformed gourds. Moving inside, books are the decoration of choice, surrounded by black candles, skulls and spiders, stacks of spine-tingling stories from classics to contemporary masterpieces.

Don’t you love Halloween? It’s a time when you can be whatever you want, the one day when no one is confined to his or her circumstances, not even a contemporary women’s fiction author who fancies her house to look like what she thinks Anne Rice’s should.

What better way to celebrate than a Literary Halloween Party? It's not too early to start your planning.

Here are a few suggestions for a frightfully fun evening.

Decide on a theme. A few of my favorites include Great Couples of Literature (Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Caesar and Cleopatra, Catherine and…

September Ends


The first time I connected with the rock band Green Day was way back in 2004. Sure, I had heard a few of their songs before that, but I had been too busy raising young children, playing pirates, and reading William Joyce picture books to listen to much new besides kid tunes.

But that day was different.

Earlier, my oldest had left to start junior high, and I had just dropped my youngest off for his first day of Kindergarden. It was one of those times when you realize everything changes after that day. I was happy for them, of course, and their new adventures, but for me? Well, I really didn’t know how I felt.

Then it happened.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” came on the radio. Billie Joe Armstrong sang of pain, sadness of time passing, dread, loss of innocence, and wanting to go back to bed and hide beneath the covers. The tears came stronger than I ever imagined.

Oh, September, how you vex me so!

This year, four weeks of such promise withered a little ea…

Who's Ready for a Little Lit Fun?


This Saturday, September 28, I will be participating in the Glen Ellyn Bookfest, a day-long literary festival filled with author events, book signings, and panel discussions.

The event begins at 9:30 a.m. with PitchFest in the Glen Ellyn Public Library, 400 Duane Street. Participants (including myself) will have only sixty seconds to get the audience interested in our novels. I'll be practicing my best "elevator speech" for Until My Soul Gets It Right all week.

Afterward, attendees will be able to meet their favorite authors at the Trade Show from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the library meeting room.

Other activities for the day include a keynote address by Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, a panel discussion with Mathis, Bret Nicholas, literary agent Joe Durepos, and author Amy Sue Nathan, and appearances by children's book authors Matthew Cordell and Judith Fradin.

It sounds like a lot of fun. Besides, who doesn't love…

Thoreau, Walden, and Concord


Henry David Thoreau, most famous as the author of Walden and Civil Disobedience, was a naturalist who believed one could achieve a better understanding of life by a greater understanding of nature. Unlike the common caricature of the hermit-like man, shunning society for his tiny cabin in the woods, Thoreau was actually quite social and very much a part of Transcendentalist society in Concord. He escaped to the woods to write his first book, which is something I can very much relate to, although I would need indoor plumbing and Internet connection in my small shelter.

How important is a constant intercourse with nature and the contemplation of natural  phenomena to the preservation of moral and intellectual health!  — Henry David Thoreau, [Journal, 6 May 1851]

He once spent a night in jail for not paying his poll tax. Fellow Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson bailed him out. According to, he was “a tireless champion of the human spirit against t…

Salem's Favorite Son, Nathaniel Hawthorne


My family’s trip to the Boston area enchanted me in many ways. The rocky Atlantic shore, so different and preferable to the seas of corn we have in the Midwest. The history around every corner. The beautiful colonial and federalist architecture. But the one place that truly touched my core was Salem.

Salem, Massachusetts, has an interesting feel to it. Part maritime port, part modern-day Wiccan mecca, it operates over an undercurrent of uneasiness. You can feel something terrible happened here. Not everywhere, of course. Larger than I had remembered, the town bustles with every-day activity. Witches dressed in long skirts and pentacles walk the streets alongside tourists, businesspeople, punks, goths, and an occasional local garbed in Puritan attire to add ambiance to The Witch House, the only structure remaining from the times of the Witch Trials.

The Salem Witch Museum reminds visitors of the twenty people that lost their lives in 1692 after being falsely…

Five Fun Facts About Ralph Waldo Emerson

Continuing our celebration of American Literature, here are some interesting tidbits about Ralph Waldo Emerson.

1. Poet, philosopher, and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 in Boston. He led the Transcendentalist movement and wrote dozens of published essays, including "Nature" and "Self-Reliance," and delivered more than 1,500 lectures across the U.S.

2. After studying at Harvard, Ralph Waldo Emerson entered the ministry, but found himself unable to administer the sacraments in good conciousness after the death of his nineteen-year-old wife, Ellen. He left the church.

3. Nicknamed "The Sage of Concord," Ralph Waldo Emerson surmised that intuition was the only way to comprehend reality.

4. Ralph Waldo Emerson owned the Walden property upon which Henry David Thoreau built his cabin.

5. “My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, …

A Literary Founding Mother


It’s difficult to trace the exact moment I became a Bibliophile. Was it back in first grade when I could read Bread and Jam for Frances by myself? Or was it while following the pioneer adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family? Maybe.

When my mother brought down her huge box of books she had kept from her own childhood, I knew an entire universe had just opened up to me. My favorite? Little Women. How I loved the spunky Jo March and her self-reliance! It was the only time this only child ever wanted sisters.

“She transformed the lives of women into something worthy of literature,” writes Susan Cheever on page 192 of American Bloomsbury. “Without even meaning to, Alcott exalted the everyday in women’s lives and gave it greatness.”

I was taken aback by how visiting Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott’s final family home in Concord, Massachusetts, affected me. First of all, it looked almost exactly like the March home in the 1994 movie starring Winona R…

Literary Tourism: My Trip to Concord


As many of you have probably guessed, I am an anglophile who loves English literature of all sorts. However, there is one time period (besides present day) of American writing history that I truly love. Some call it “The Golden Age of American Literature,” but it’s really the first period of great American writers. These are the days of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and most importantly for me, Louisa May Alcott.

They all lived in Concord, Massachusetts, for awhile at the same time, and their ideas and writing styles shaped our country’s psyche. From time to time, other literary greats joined their circle, including Herman Melville, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and even Edgar Allan Poe.

Concord is a tiny town tucked in the Massachusetts countryside, only about thirty minutes or so away from the bustle that is Boston, but worlds away from its frenetic energy. Nestled among woods and hills, it sits pretty much as it was when the T…