Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This was an interesting book, despite being difficult to read–not because of its subject matter, but its organization. It had a relatively simple storyline, as Jess Walter himself states.  But the narrative drive was zero to none. Not that that’s a bad thing, especially in a novel Walter describes as ‘post-modern.’ It’s just that it’s hard to stick with a book that keeps circling around its story instead of driving through it with traditional narrative tools like conflict, tension and suspense.

Let me tell you a little about the book.  It’s set in two places and two time periods.  The first is Porto Vergogna, Italy, in 1962.  The second is Los Angeles (with a trip to Idaho interspersed) in the present.  The main character is a beautiful actress named Dee Moray who has an affair with Richard Burton (of Camelot fame) which results in an unintended pregnancy.  Fast forward to the present day and we find an eclectic if odd group of people (a sort of modern-day Donner Party according to Walter) in search of Ms. Moray many years later.  The most empathetic of these people is Pasquale, owner of the Hotel Adequate View in Italy, where we first meet Ms. Moray.

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?  And it is, despite its narrative peculiarities.  Beautiful Ruins is definitely a book worth reading, especially if you’re a student of contemporary literature. The interview with Walter at the end of the ebook version is also worth reading.  Insightful and interesting, this is where Mr. Walter describes his writing process (BR took Walter 15 years to complete) and his unusual view of time–in the novel as well as life.

4 stars


Something Stinks! Interview with Gail Hedrick

Meet Children’s Book Author, Gail Hedrick . . .

Jessica Schaub Books

If there was anyone who even deserved a gold star for being patient with me, it is Gail Hedrick. Life as a homeschooler, despite all my careful planning, side-swiped me two weeks ago and I was late in sending these questions to her. Gail, again my apologies. Thank you for your gracious patience 🙂

Not only is Gail a sweetheart, she is an award-winning author. Her book, Something Stinks!, was brand new in our house a few weeks ago and is now a little tattered looking as my three daughters have been reading it – and loving it! It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Gail Hedrick!


Gail Hedrick Gail Hedrick

I’ve spent quite a bit of time admiring your website. Did you put this together or did you go through a service?

Gosh, thanks! I was a total infant in the website process, but luckily knew how to ask…

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What I learned from my first Goodreads giveaway

Tips for hosting a Goodreads Giveaway…

OneFour KidLit

As I learn how to get the word out about The Secret Side of Empty I grow more and more grateful for Goodreads, the social networking site for readers. Imagine a website full of people who love the very thing you hope to popularize (and which you also love)… books. Amazing, right?

That’s why Goodreads giveaways are a great way to help spread the word. You list a free book on their giveaways page and the people who find it intriguing enter to win it. If they really find it interesting, they also add it to their “to-read” shelf.

I just did my first Goodreads giveaway and I learned some tips and tricks that should help you make yours more successful.

Here are the stats on my Goodreads giveaway for my young adult novel:

I ran the giveaway for 3 days.
I had 652 people enter to win the…

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Welcome to #mywritingprocess blog tour, children’s books edition!

So happy to be part of the #mywritingprocess blog tour! It’s a fun way to meet new authors and hear their stories. All lives are full of twists and turns, but the writing life…? Sometimes it feels like one big circle. So buckle in, mates—my writing process may get your head spinning!

Many thanks to Christy Lynn Allen, fellow indie-writer and author of the Samantha Green Mystery Series ( Christy and I first met during a 2012 interview about e-publishing by columnist Susie Wilde in Durham, NC’s Herald Sun.

You can read Christy’s #mywritingprocess blog post at

What are you working on?
Right now I’m working on a picture book called Yogabets: An Acrobatic Alphabet.

Yoga darker - Image-1


It’s a really fun little book that imagines the alphabet as a series of ideograms or symbols that represent objects or ideas. After I introduce each letter with a phrase describing what the letter looks like, I provide an interpretive drawing.

Yogabets is also a poem and a bedtime-story—so there’s a lot going on!

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Well, that’s an interesting question, because I do lots of different types of work. My first project was a middle grade novel called Stella Bellarosa: Tales of an Aspiring Teenage Superhero.

Stella Bellarosa Watercolor Orange Arch Option 3




It’s set in New York City in the 1960’s and centers on the lives of two thirteen-year-old girls who get suspended for stealing a substitute teacher’s wallet. It’s different from other middle grade novels in that it’s a humorous-cum-historical novel with a multicultural theme—the main characters are a second-generation Italian-American teenager and a recent Chinese émigré.

I’ve also written and illustrated two picture books. One is about a little girl—Isabel Plum: Ichthyologist—who’s used to getting her way, but is about to get the surprise of a lifetime.

isabel plum cover 1400


Unfortunately, she’s not too pleased with the surprise. My other picture book—Tip & Oliver: BFFs is about an old dog whose owners adopt a young pet to cheer him up.



Things don’t turn out as planned, though, because Tip sees Oliver as an interloper rather than as a friend.

So I guess you could say what makes my books different from others is that they set stereotypes on their heads—which makes for some funny as well as heartbreaking stories. And that’s a bit genre-busting in itself!

Why do I write what I do?
Boy, that’s a really good question and one that piggybacks well on the one above.

I think all writing stems from the writer’s experience, which sounds cliché. But as I’ve indicated above, although I write for children, there’s something subversive about my work. I’m not writing about the traditionally successful, well-adjusted child. I’m writing about the Boo Radleys and the Holden Caulfields of the world—good kids who are trying to figure things out but aren’t quite there yet. Kids who make mistakes, who dream big but whose dreams don’t quite sync up with reality. Stella is like that. She wants to save the world, but, as her father points out, she can’t even get out of bed on time. Isabel Plum’s another. She wants the one thing in life she can’t have—a puppy (because she’s allergic). And poor, old Tip just wants to be loved—and doesn’t realize that he is just that—loved, well-loved—until the end of the story.

How does your writing process work?
Boy, these questions keep getting harder. I’ve tried all different types of writing processes. After reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, for instance, I started keeping a journal and writing what she calls ‘morning notes.’ This is a really good method for finding out what’s on your mind when you’re not quite sure what to write, because it extracts ideas, events, situations from your subconscious. The idea is you put pen to paper before you’re fully awake and just write without stopping to cross your t’s or dot your i’s—and definitely, definitely, without editing what you write.

I did this a lot when I first started to write, and eventually amassed a ton of raw material, some of which I went back and shaped into picture books or novels or poems. I still do this, though right now I’m so busy polishing up the stuff I’ve written over the last ten years, I’m not sure when I’ll have time to generate fresh material. I hope I do, though, for sure. Maybe after I publish my next book. Unfortunately, self-publishing, as many others have noted, is a time-consuming process, which complicates things even more. But it’s fun. And it’s rewarding. And it’s a step toward getting your material out in the world.

More information about Julie can be found at Krantz/e/B00996YNZ4/

#mywritingprocess blog tour update…

Next up—writer Lisa Otter Rose, author of You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland!

Lisa is a writer and visual journalist. She appreciates how creativity, determination, and courage play key roles in every child’s development. Like Jamie, Lisa and her children have learning disabilities. She has experienced firsthand the frustration that undiagnosed learning disorders bring, and then the relief that proper diagnosis and intervention offer. Lisa, who has always loved books and knows the power of story, has crafted a funny and realistic character, Jamie Ireland, who defies any label.

Check out Lisa’s blog at