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Blessed Be out a week early!

Okay, so I know some of you will have seen this like 50 million times, but I'm just covering all my bases here... ;-)

Blessed Be is officially out a week early, and since it's late and I'm giddy with New Release Excitement (does this ever get old?!), here's a blurb and an excerpt with some linkage.

Genre: Full-figured Heroine Paranormal
Length: Novella

Leah Montgomery never expected to see Jack Michaelson again. After all, he'd left her eight years ago -- alone and pregnant -- so why would he come back now?

Unaware of the secrets Leah's been keeping from him, Jack's moved back with the thought that maybe there's still some chemistry left between them. What he finds is chemistry, along with a changed Leah. She's curvier, softer, even more beautiful than she'd been at the age of twenty-one, and very much a wounded soul. Determined to uncover her secrets -- and her luscious body -- Jack pursues Leah (and unfortunately keeps putting his foot in his mouth).

Leah didn't expect to still be attracted to Jack, but as he's standing across from her at her sister's wedding, the old attraction turns into something new. She tries everything in her power to deny her growing feelings, but when Leah's sister gives her a magical bracelet and keeps dreaming up reasons to throw them together, it becomes impossible for Leah and Jack to keep their hands off each other. Before they can find happiness, though, they have to clear up the past -- and open themselves up to the feelings that never quite disappeared.

If they can do that, this holiday season will truly blessed be.

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse.

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Want more? Click here.
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notice for Gary A. Braunbeck's students

Gary doesn't have any internet access and probably won't for another day or more -- our power (and most of the power in the city) was knocked out yesterday afternoon and the power company is saying it could be days before power is restored. I have access to internet due to my campus job, but he does not.

So, if you're one of his Seton Hill students, your patience is appreciated. He'll be in touch when he's able. Please don't email him in the meantime, because he has no way of checking his email right now.
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Gary Braunbeck update

Hi all,

If anyone reading this is a student of Gary's, or expecting email from Gary, please know that he's been without internet access since 2:00pm yesterday afternoon, and isn't going to have service restored for several more days. Friday afternoon would be the earliest, but it may be Monday before he can get caught up. In the meantime, please *don't* email him, because he's likely to go over his email quota -- if it's urgent let me know and I can get you his phone number.

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Book News

I should've said something last week, but it completely slipped my mind.

My alter ego's first novella, "Heavenly Bodies," was released last Tuesday by Loose Id in the anthology Going Up, Going Down.

The blurb:

Heavenly Bodies by Renae Johnson
Samantha Beasley's life is great. She has a job she loves performing stand up comedy, a house she recently bought and a brand new Prius sitting in her garage. Too bad that life is over due to a blender malfunction that left her dead and standing in front of the Pearly Gates -- and an angel so hot he should be a male Victoria's Secret model.

Adam's sent back to earth to protect Samantha and keep her from dying again. His plan of action? Keep her locked up in her house -- and away from all blenders -- for the next twelve hours. Samantha has a different plan: teach the angel a few new tricks, and make heaven a place on earth.

Happy reading!

Aubrey aka Renae
Kitty: Angry Calico

Nelson, Victoria: On Writer's Block

On Writer's Block: A New Approach to Creativity
Writer: Victoria Nelson
Genre: Writing
Pages: 191

For those of you absolutely tired of seeing all these reviews on procrastination and writer's block, REJOICE!! For this is the last book in my pile of research. And while you're rejoicing, if you're seeking to beat the snot out of whatever source it was that gave me this idea of talking about procrastination and writer's block for my teaching module, look no further, because this book was it.

Rather, not the WHOLE book, but an excerpted section entitled "The Master-Slave Relationship." At my January residency, I took an Advanced Reading Module, but instead of a book, the esteemed Mike Arnzen gave us a selection of essays to read on the writing life, and Nelson's essay hit home. The essay, particularly at that time, was such a perfect portrait of my writer's block that the author might as well have included my picture in the essay.

I wasn't the only one in the class who felt that way, of course, which speaks to the readability of Nelson's exposition. Nelson tackles the topic of writer's block with an objective eye and absolute frankness. Rather than speak in absolutes that can cast judgment on the writer, she examines each and every kind of situation that can spark writer's block and what a writer should or should not do about it. She's very focused on the individual, stressing that it's up to the individual writer to know themselves and make the decision that's best for them, based on listening to their intuition (rather than their ego). She also points out that with rare exception, the all-authority, must-do attitude in regards to the act of creative writing rarely produces good writing, and usually leads to MORE block.

It's really a good book, one I'm glad to have finished my research on. This is a title I think anyone with the desire to write should have in their collection, no matter if they're at the starting line, along the middle, or a consummate professional. This book is helpful without resorting to New Age-ism or sentimentality or psychological mush to explain the topic. Oh, Nelson uses metaphors and some psychological terminology, but after reading The Midnight Disease, this book is like a freaking beach read, which is really, really awesome.

The only BAD thing about this book is that it's no longer in print, which is a bloody shame. To get your hands on it, you're going to have to scour the used books venue. My favorite is (the link takes you to THIS specific book, because--you know--I'm persuasive like that).

My Rating

Must Have: Duh. This was, beyond a doubt, one of the most useful and interesting books out of my research, and if you're a writer, you need this in your library. Period.


As a thank-you to all of you kind souls putting up with these constant reviews (don't worry, I won't be doing another project like this for a LONG while), I've decided to have a giveaway at my journal. If you're at all interested in ANY of the writer's block/procrastination books I've reviewed, just click HERE to enter.

Happy Reading!
Kitty: Angry Calico

Fiore, Neil: The Now Habit

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play
Writer: Neil Fiore
Genre: Self-Help
Pages: 202

Continuing with my research on writer's block/procrastination, next up in the pile is Neil Fiore's The Now Habit. This book wasn't on my original list when I scoured the internet for research, but it should've been, because the person who introduced me to the book at a later date was the very person I'd gone to for suggestions not more than a week earlier! He used this book as a basis for an online chat on writer's habits, and it caught my attention enough to snag the title and read it all the way through.

I don't know if I've reached a point where everything I'm reading is kind of simmering into ONE GREAT TRUTH about procrastination and the things that cause it and how to fight it, or if Fiore just made much better sense than the others I've read. He lacks the philosophical crap of Pressfield (unlike Pressfield's book, Fiore's The Now Habit deserves to be labeled and shelved in self-help), and he also doesn't bother with eyebrow-raising notions of bi-vocal thinking introduced in Peterson's Write.

The biggest difference is that unlike the other two titles, both aimed at getting over procrastination and writer's block, Fiore's book has nothing to do with the craft of writing. Writing a novel might be a project he refers to from time to time, but Fiore is focused on the problem of procrastination itself. Like Peterson, he doesn't believe in beating people over the head with the notion that if you're a procrastinator, you must be lazy and therefore unworthy of your undertaking, and like Peterson, he believes that it's necessary and healthy for people to engage in play, because in doing so, your work becomes something else, something worthwhile, if only you can adjust your attitude about it.

There's nothing new-agey (except for maybe the relaxation exercise detailed in the back of the book) or preachy about Fiore's strategy or exposition. He tackles the problem of procrastination for what it really is rather than what everyone else assumes it to be (like Pressfield). His strategy focuses on how guilt-free play can lead to quality work, as well as how to use an "unschedule" to meet your deadlines and make big projects far more manageable, the latter being something that Kelly Stone touched on in Time to Write.

It's actually refreshing to read a book that has nothing to do with the writing process and all about procrastination and its roots. This book has clicked with me in ways the others haven't, and I suspect it's because it looks at procrastination as the big picture, rather than one narrow aspect of it (in my case, writing a novel). I would've killed to know about this book back when I started my degree in 2006, even more so to have known about this book in my second year in 2007, when procrastination had truly started to become disabling. Even without trying the "unschedule," I can already see how this book's principles and strategies can create a healthier, more productive mindset for someone like me, and I'm glad I've got this book in my arsenal.

My Rating

Must Have: Obviously. This book is for more than just writers, it's for anyone who puts off doing ANYTHING for any reason and feels guilty/worthless/lazy for doing so. It's for the workaholic as well. It's a book I'll recommend to anyone without feeling bad or needing to clarify my recommendation, so if you or someone you know suffers from procrastination of ANY kind for ANY kind of project, even if it's just paying the bills on time or not being late, this is the book to go to.
Kitty: Angry Calico

Peterson, Karen: Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period.

Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period.
Writer: Karen E. Peterson
Genre: Writing Literature/Self-Help
Pages: 272

When I sat down and made my list of writer's block/procrastination books I wanted to read, this book was not on it. I'd seen it while perusing through Amazon, but I wasn't impressed with the ratings and seriously doubted that the author could make good on her promise of overcoming writer's block in 10 days. However, when I was in Borders looking for the titles I DID want, I saw this one on the shelf and couldn't resist. I mean, promises like that take balls to make, and I was curious just how exactly Peterson thought writers could overcome their block in a mere ten days.

This book, while shelved in the writing section of the store, deserves to be in psychology/self-help. And it's not so much about overcoming writers block as it is about recognize your own habits and why you do the things you do and about retraining yourself according to those habits to fit writing into your life, to not let your brain get in the way.

Rather, your right brain, that is. Peterson spends the bulk of her book discussing how the differences between what our left brain wants and what our right brain wants is really the source of writer's block, and it's interesting stuff that even brings up a good point or two. Like the need to have a BIG CHUNK OF TIME AND GET IT ALL DONE NOW is a total right brain mentality (ha ha) when it comes to writing. I'm so guilty of it I could form my own club. But such a mentality is one of the major sources of writer's block, because we're always looking for that often allusive BIG CHUNK OF TIME and never getting it, and therefore, our right brain isn't satisfied we have enough time to write (which is a bad way to look at things for those of us who write novels).

But there's more to this right brain versus left brain stuff than that snazzy little tidbit I offered above. Peterson offers countless exercises which you do TWICE in order to figure out what you REALLY want/need when it comes to writing. Why twice? Well, the first time, you use your dominant hand (which is supposed to represent your left brain, well, it is if you're right-handed). Then the second time you're supposed to close you eyes, then answer the same questions with your non-dominant hand (which is supposed to represent your right brain for those of us who are right handed) and you get an different set of answers.

You're supposed to. There's a TON of exercises to do, and with each one, Peterson discusses her OWN results to show the differences, which is all well and good, I guess, but that's the major thing that slowed me down in this book. That and well, the whiff of BS I kept getting every time I tried to imagine coming up with two different sets of answers based on the hand I was using.

Okay, okay, so I didn't do the exercises, except once when I could photocopy the duplicate list at work and actually DO one (I hate writing in actual books, especially since all exercises in all writing books can be done over and over), and yes, I actually got different answers. Shocking, but I'm not entirely sure how well that'd hold up over the course of every exercise, and I'm not sure how long I would "let" myself let the answers be different. I suspect my brain would wizen up and REFUSE to let the answers be different, if you know what I mean.

But hey, I'm a cynic, and it IS interesting stuff Peterson presents. She also talks about how our brain development as babies and how it relates to our family dynamic greatly effects our creativity and motivation as adults. Don't ask me to paraphrase it, because I can't. Sometimes, what she said made sense, and then I'd be reading and she'd refer to it and I'd ask myself what the hell the connection was again.

My Rating

Wish I'd Borrowed It: As research material, this book has a lot of interesting stuff to consider, but you need to be open to the psychology behind it, because that's what Peterson pushes. That's not a bad thing, but she spends more time with the psychology and the exercises than actually revealing the 10 day program to overcome writer's block, so the book doesn't live up to its title in that regard. Well, I don't think. Like I said, I didn't do the exercises and therefore didn't do the 10 day program BASED on those exercises, so it might actually work. But for who?

I'd recommend this book to writers who are blocked, they know it, and yet NOTHING seems to work. Severely, ridiculously blocked writers need to read this. Writers who spend time doing more fun stuff than writing (in the case of us who have deadlines) need to read this. Hell, this book might've been more useful to me a year ago. But when you read this, I think you need to actually PARTICIPATE in every exercise and every step the book offers, because while the information is interesting, it's really not going to help you unless you give her program a shot. But fortunately, this book takes a far more "nurturing" side to writer's block and Peterson believes in having your cake and eating it too, so for writers who have guilt themselves out of rewards because they feel guilty for choosing fun over writing, you might ought to check this out.

And if you do, and you actually participate in every step of this book, including the 10 day program? Holler and let me know how it works. I'd love to know. :)
Kitty: Angry Calico

Pressfield, Steven: The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Writer: Steven Pressfield
Genre: Self-Help/Writing Literature
Pages: 165

Normally, when I review non-fiction, I just post the whole of my original review from my personal LJ to review communities because there's nothing to spoil. However, in the case of Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, I'll make a special exception. It's not because I spoil anything, but because I had such a negative reaction to the book that I really don't want to inflict it on you unless you're just dying to read it.

In a nutshell, Pressfield's book is a self-help dealing with how to combat writer's block. It's actually more opinion and personal philosophy than anything, and while there's nuggets of good advice in this book, Pressfield spends a lot of time attacking the ills of the world and the psyche without very much evidence to support it in relation to the focus of the book, which is overcoming writer's block. His advice in a nutshell is you just gotta do it. You've got to take yourself seriously and write your ass off, and THEN you're a professional.

Nothing wrong with that way of thinking, especially if it sits well with your psyche, but if you find yourself cringing from those statements, or know that that particular mindset hasn't worked for you in the past and won't work for you now, I wouldn't recommend this book. And for those of you who do read it, I hope you have a far better experience with it than I did. It pissed me off in so many ways that it simply didn't have to.

My full review is in my LJ if you're really interested. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.

REVIEW: Steven Pressfield's THE WAR OF ART

Happy Reading!