At the Women’s Fiction Festival 2013 — What happened today

Image, Matera, Women's Fiction Festival, Italy

The Sassi district in Matera, Italy

Well, it’s my second full day at the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy, and it’s been very insightful. We’ve had some great panel discussions, including one on screenwriting tips for novelists, which was led by James Dalessandro, author of 1906 and who also happens to be a poet/screenwriter/director/producer. Jane Corry led a very in-depth and compelling workshop on how to better revise your novel. David Gaughran was also on hand for a very interesting presentation of self-publishing and what one needs to think about when embarking on a self-publishing project.

Lessons I’ve learned today?

  • novels don’t have to have a nice, tidy ending (unless it’s a romance)
  • don’t write your novel thinking it would make a great film–write it thinking this is a great story
  • always read your writing aloud to make sure you have the right pitch and rhythm
  • keep main characters to a minimum–readers get lost when there are too many people “on stage”
  • don’t spend all day on Twitter–start a mailing list and send out updates to your readers this way
  • good metadata increases discoverability
  • invest in a good editor and a good cover designer

As always,  there was good wine and great food to be had. 🙂

It’s 30°C here today and I feel sapped of all energy, so I need a nap. And then I will do a little more writing. 🙂

By the way, if you haven’t heard yet, Ernessa T. Carter has a new book out called The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men and it’s…awesome! You need to read it ASAP!

The only thing that helps at times like this is buying books

It’s been a crazy two weeks. There is a lot going on at work, which means I am exhausted physically and mentally when I come home. And this is affecting my writing time. I wake up too tired to write. I come home too tired to write. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to read other people’s work instead but I find myself falling asleep on the sofa–not because the books are boring, but because I am tired. Ah well, at least I have Matera and my vacation in the US to look forward to in the coming weeks.

Anyway, I indulged in a little retail therapy and this is what I bought:

ImageMo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman

I had to get this. Questlove and I come from the same town, my beloved Philadelphia. We both come from West Philly. We’re both creative–he’s a musical genius, I’m a writer. Really, it’s a wonder our paths haven’t crossed yet. 😉 But seriously, I am always drawn to books and movies set in my hometown. And since I am a Roots fan and I have always liked Questlove, I knew I needed to get a copy of his memoir. And then a few months ago, Nick Hornby was talking about Questlove’s memoir and I was even more intrigued. It wasn’t available yet and when I tried to preorder it here in Stockholm, I was met with blank stares from  bookstore staff. Of course, after I finally ordered it from Amazon UK, then every online bookstore in Sweden suddenly decided they could stock it as well. I don’t care. I have it now and the cover looks great. I’ve already sneaked a peek at a few pages and this is definitely my kind of book.

I haven’t started reading Mo’ Meta Blues yet but it is the next book on my To Read List. Maybe I will save it as something to read while I am in Philly and then give to my oldest niece as a source of inspiration. I want her to see that there is more to the world than the confines of our old neighborhood.

ImageThe other book I ended up buying is not new but I didn’t want to read it when everyone else was reading it because I really, really hate when other people see you’re reading the same book and then they feel compelled to inadvertently spoil it for you. So which book is it? Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I love a good mystery/thriller and I wanted to be able to read this without everyone else a) trying to convince me it was godhead, b) wanting to discuss it and reveal spoilers, c) wanting to talk about which Hollywood A-listers should play Nick and Amy. Luckily the Gone Girl hype in Stockholm has died down. I think everyone has found a new novel to gush about. I started reading it on Thursday and it’s as good as everyone assured me it was. I’ve decided I need to Gillian Flynn’s other novels (Dark Places and Sharp Objects) as well, so they are also on the To Read List for this autumn/winter. And what could be better to read in Stockholm–that city where the winter cloud cover is so thick you nearly forget there is a thing called the sun–than really tight mystery novels that play tricks with your mind? 🙂

So I think I am set for a few weeks. I am editing Maybe Baby again after making changes suggested by a beta reader. I’m also beta reading a friend’s novel. And I have to wait and see what the future has in store for me. If all else fails, at least I have my writing, Nanowrimo and my gorgeous husband. 🙂

Happy reading (and writing)!

Three More Books to Read This Summer

You all know how much of a book nerd I am. I proudly fly my book nerd flag. 🙂 So while everyone else around me has been going clubbing or sailing or disappearing to summer houses or the Greek islands (and all those other things Stockholmers do when it’s summer), I’ve been working and reading. You may remember I took two weeks off in June, went to Italy, wrote and lived la dolce vita. Since then, I’ve been working, working, working and taking the occasional weekend trip. And all the while I’ve been reading. 🙂

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Cover of Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Love Minus Eighty – Will McIntosh

It’s been a while since I read any sci-fi novels. None has really jumped out at me. So I was really pleased when I heard about Love Minus Eighty through a Twitter connection. The story is set in a future version of New York where one’s love life is as closely monitored like a reality TV show and death isn’t always the end–especially if you’re an attractive woman on the right side of thirty. This addictive novel follows the stories of several interconnected characters as they try to figure out romantic love in an age where technology has taken over. This is not your usual sci-fi novel. It reads more like speculative literary fiction and is a real page-turner. I loved sinking my teeth into it, and I think you will too. The world presented is like Facebook on crack…no, more like Facebook on the most psychedelic drug you could imagine. Hats off to Will McIntosh for such a brilliantly written novel! This was the first time I’d ever read his work and I am already a fan. 🙂

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Cover of French Kissing by Catherine Sanderson

French Kissing – Catherine Sanderson

French Kissing is not a new book. It was originally published in 2009, but I only just heard about it a few weeks ago. I was thinking about booking a weekend trip to Paris and stumbled upon a short interview with Catherine Sanderson and her experiences as an expat living in France. And as an expat living in Stockholm, I always find it fun to read books about others wading in the murky waters of another country’s culture and unwritten rules of society. And Sally, French Kissing‘s heroine, is doing just that while also trying to raise her four-year-old daughter Lila and maintain an amicable relationship with her ex, the faithless Nico. While Nico has moved on with two other women, Sally hasn’t dated and decides it’s time to take the plunge and rejoin the dating market. She does so via Rendez-Vous, the French version of match.com. We follow Sally through a few dreadful dates, a few not-qute-right-but-nice-enough dates and all the while get an idea of what it’s like to date in a foreign language. Sanderson does a great job of giving the reader insight into how the French (and especially Parisians) date and what it’s like raising a bilingual child while also trying to maneuver as a newly single mum. Sally is an extremely likable character. She is definitely not an all-too perfect Mary Sue. And her journey from coupledom to singledom while looking for love is an addictive read!

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Cover of S.G. Redling’s Damocles

I first heard about the plot of Damocles during a Matera brainstorming session. I thought the story–of a crew on a one-way expedition into deep space mission to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence–was intriguing. I couldn’t wait for the book to finally come out, and it doesn’t disappoint. Linguist Meg Dupris and her crew have the daunting task of making first contact with the humanoid inhabitants of Didet, an earth-like planet with eternal sunlight. But first they must overcome the Didetos’ fear that the “earthers” are there as invaders…and they must find a way to communicate when there is no common language. The story moves quickly, with Meg and Loul, a Dideto who predicted that “aliens” would come, struggling to figure out how to interact and learn from one another–and realizing they have more in common than they think. What I really liked with Damocles is how the story is told from both Meg and Loul’s perspective. So we get a very interesting view of just how first contact might be. Two thumbs up!

OK! That’s it for now! Happy reading (and writing)!

Mid-afternoon ramblings and wishing Abigail and Karen had new books out…

Found at zazzle.com, not sure who made it but it's definitely true for me. :)

Found at zazzle.com, not sure who made it but it’s definitely true for me. 🙂

The last few weeks have been hectic, to say the least. It’s left me feeling a little worn out, a little less writerly (which is not good) and in need of being out in the sun (which is good, but also not good). So while I struggle to finish revising and formatting and all the other various things on my to-do list, I’ve been thinking about two of my favorite writers–Abigail Bosanko and Karen Siplin–and wishing they’d come out with new books.

Now, I know they both have their own lives to think about and they are just as super-busy as I’ve been, but I still wish they would send me an email and say, “Guess what, Kim! Our new books are coming soon–in fact, in just a matter of weeks.” Oh, that would make me so happy. And these days it’s easy to make me happy–especially if it also involves a perfectly chilled glass of dry rosé wine and sitting outdoors.

So, Abigail and Karen, please let me (and your other fans) know–is there something new in the works? Will we be able to read it soon? 😀

Simona, I borrowed this from your blog. :) Photo: Simona Ahrnstedt

Simona, I borrowed this from your blog. 🙂 Photo: Simona Ahrnstedt

On the plus side (for me since I can read Swedish), Simona Ahrnstedt–the Swedish romance author I interviewed a while back–has a new book out called De Skandalösa. Going to pick it up this weekend! And everywhere I look in Stockholm I find adverts for her new book–and they’ve crowned her Sweden’s Queen of Romance. Nice! 🙂

But now…Abigail, Karen and Simona…the three of you really ought to come to Matera at the end of September for the Women’s Fiction Festival so we could all finally meet and talk about writing and what you’re working on and I can bore you with talking about my WIP. 🙂 And we can sip white wine in Piazza del Sedile and figure out life, the universe and all that jazz…and somewhere along the line we’ll write. 🙂

OK, now I have to get back to work. 🙂

Happy reading (and writing)!

My writing escapes

Tomorrow I’m going on well-deserved vacation. My husband and I are going to Italy, where we’ll celebrate his 44th birthday. While there, I will do what I always do–write.  And this made me think of great places to go when you want to write. I thought I’d share my list of favorites with you.

The Museum District Bed and Breakfast in Richmond, Virginia. Whenever Tord and I head to Richmond to meet friends, we stay here. Anna, the proprietor, is a lovely woman who goes out of her way to make you feel at home. Sitting in her garden or on the front porch, reading or writing is one of my favorite things to do while in Richmond. 

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Main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia at Parkway Central

The main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. When I was in high school and college, this was where I hid from the world (and the abysmal summer heat and humidity). I studied, I wrote, I dreamed in this perfect temple of the written word. Even now, if I am on my own in Philly, I end up at the Free Library and I write in one of the reading rooms before heading off for a cup of coffee.

La Colombe Coffee near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Another place where I end up when I am in Philly. I like sitting by the window and watching people go by as I eat a solitary late lunch or afternoon snack and imbibe coffee. The baristas are friendly, and it’s a great place for people-watching. 

ImageVittorio Veneto Caffè in Matera, Italy. I usually end up here when I am in Matera for the Women’s Fiction Festival or the Brainstorming at the Spa. The guys who work here are super-friendly and they always make sure I can have a table where I can write. It’s also a great location for watching Italians on their evening stroll. Order a glass of white wine and they’ll bring out a tray of snacks and a bottle of sparkling water for you. Perfect when you aren’t hungry enough for dinner but you’re feeling a little peckish.

Caserma Carina in Mogliano, Italy. This place is so relaxing that Tord and I are heading there for the third time. I get so much writing done here and last year I read five books in 10 days. Beautiful views, lovely hosts, great food and wine. What more could we ask for? 🙂

What about you? When you’re in the mood for a lovely place to read or write, where do you go?

 

 

Review: Put The Husband Diet On Your Summer Reads List

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 9.32.14 PMEver since Nancy first brainstormed the plot of The Husband Diet with all of us in Matera, I’ve been longing to read it. The story of Erica, a plus-sized woman who put aside her own dreams to help her egocentric husband get his business off the ground.  Fast forward twelve years and Erica is still putting her wants aside for the sake of Ira, who still hasn’t managed to get his business going. But now Erica has two kids to think about. And then there’s Erica’s shallow mother, Marcy, who seems to thrive on making her daughter feel awful and who never provides her with the emotional support Erica desperately needs. Thank God Erica has her gay best friend Paul in her corner to remind her that she is beautiful no matter what size she is and that she is a great mom with kids who adore her. Paul gives Erica the unconditional love and support she’s been missing but she wishes she had someone who could take care of her physical needs as well, and that certainly isn’t her husband who announces that she is too heavy to turn him on. 

Enter Julian Foxham, brave spider killer and dead sexy headmaster of the school Erica’s children attend. His good looks and quiet calm set Erica’s heart racing and remind her there is hope for her love life–there are other men in the world and, unlike her husband, they find her incredibly attractive.  At first Julian is nothing more to Erica than a perfect fantasy hero but then it becomes obvious he’s interested in more than just a parent-teacher relationship with Erica…well, I won’t spoil it for you.

Take my advice and order yourself a copy of The Husband Diet. If you want a book that will have you laughing and rooting for the heroine from page one until the very end and wishing you had your own spider-killing hottie, then this is the book for you. I loved how Erica shakes off the shackles of her self-doubt (and her deadbeat hubby) and rediscovers her plan to get what she wants in life. It’s lighthearted without being fluffy and Erica’s moments of introspection will have you nodding in empathy–let’s face it, we’ve all had those moments when we don’t believe in ourselves and we need someone else to shake some sense into us. 🙂

Intrigued? Here are the links where you can preorder The Husband Diet for Kobo and NOOK. Kindle readers, the book will be available on 31 May and it’s worth the wait. 🙂

My rating? I give The Husband Diet five stars!

5_Star

 

 

 

It was such a fun read and I love a book that makes me laugh and empathize with the main characters! 🙂

Happy reading (and writing)!

 

 

Sorry for the radio silence (again) and off to Matera!

ImageI know it’s been mighty quiet here at Kim Talks Books and I can only blame it on having a lot on my plate at the office. When I come home, I end up either falling asleep on my sofa or working on Maybe Baby. 

Now I am on my way to Matera, Italy again for the annual Brainstorming at the Spa, which will take place at the Locanda di San Martino. I’m looking forward to brainstorming and discussing writing, to enjoying la dolce vita in Italy and avoiding wintry Stockholm for a while–yes, it’s snowing again. I feel like I live in a snow globe. It’s nice in December. It’s tiresome in March. I’m forever grateful to Elizabeth Jennings for inviting me to the Brainstorming–I think I went to the first one in 2011. It was amazing. 

When I return, I’ll post about the brainstorming sessions and which project I discussed with my writer buddies. 

Until then, hope you’ve all found an awesome book to read. I’m happy–I’ve got my hands on an autographed copy of Nick Alexander‘s new book, The French House. Yay! It’s going to Italy with me. Thanks, Nick! 😀

Happy Reading!

Matera, here I come!

Beautiful Matera

Tomorrow morning I head to the place that always helps me recharge my creative batteries: Matera, Italy. Yes, it’s that time again–time for the Women’s Fiction Festival. I know I only came home from the US a few weeks ago, but I need my biannual dose of Matera and the Matera Brainstormers. They’ve been lifesavers for me

The last time I was in Matera was in March, following my father’s death. I still felt very raw, and my writing was suffering because of it. Going to Matera and having a week to focus on my writing and reconnect with everyone in the group helped me get back on track. Now, work has knocked me off track again, so this sojourn to Matera is an absolute necessity.

For those of you who are novices to my Matera mentions, Matera is where the Women’s Fiction Festival is held every year. It’s a beautiful town with a historical centre that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year, writers, agents and editors from around the world gather at Le Monacelle Hotel for seminars, panel discussions master classes and pitch sessions. Unlike many writer’s conferences, the Women’s Fiction Festival has a very intimate feel, making it easier to get to know the other participants–and of course it helps that Matera is a true foodie city. Which reminds me, I must remember to pick up a bottle of Padre Pepe (a walnut liqueur typical for Basilicata and Puglia) for Tord.

I’ll admit it: I am a creature of habit.I always stay at the Albergo del Sedile when I am in Matera. I love the location and the view of the Piazza del Sedile. The staff there are very friendly, helpful and always make me feel welcome. I’ve always go to Bar Sedile for my first cup of Italian. In the afternoon and early evening, I usually end up at Caffé Vittorio Veneto for snacks and a glass or two of wine while I watch the Materans take their evening stroll. I always end up at IT Style to buy makeup in great colors that suit my skin tone. And I inevitably end up buying a lot of goodies at the various delicatessens so that I can keep my Matera buzz going for as long as possible.

When I return from Matera, I’ll post my Autumn-Winter 2012 reading list and a review of a cozy mystery series I’ve become addicted to.

Happy reading (and writing)!

Planning for September in Matera

Franco, the ever charming barman at the Bar Sedile in Matera.

Even though it’s only May, it’s time for me to plan for my September trip to Matera when I attend the Women’s Fiction Festival. This year’s focus is on how publishing is changing and the options we writers now have. I am looking forward to attending the lectures and master classes.

I’m also looking forward to going to Bar Sedile and hanging out with Franco, the owner of Bar Sedile in Piazza Sedile. He doesn’t speak English, I don’t speak Italian (at least, not enough to have a conversation) yet we get along like a house on fire. 🙂 It will also be nice to enjoy a glass of wine at my favorite wine bar at Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Antonio, one of the barmen there, always takes good care of us WFF ladies when we swing by. It’s a great place for people-watching and schmoozing.

So as I write this post, I’m searching online for airline tickets + sending an email to my favorite hotel in Matera, the Albergo del Sedile in hopes they’ll have a room for me. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Now, here is my plan: by September I would like to publish at least three more ebooks. Possibly, one more volume of short stories and two novels. After the festival, I will then focus of getting myself ready for Nanowrimo 2012. One of the novels I want to publish takes place in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I want to have that one available by late September so I can use Twitter and Facebook to promote the book.

So stay tuned…I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Supporting my Brainstorming at the Spa buddies

My Kindle, living la dolce vita.On Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be heading towards Matera (via Munich). I’ve met some amazing people there and I think you should get to know them too. Please do support my writing friends in their endeavors!

  • Claude Nougat, author of the Forget the Past series and a prolific blogger.
  • Elizabeth Jennings, romantic suspense author of Darkness at Dawn and the brilliant mastermind behind the Women’s Fiction Festival and Brainstorming at the Spa in Matera, Italy.
  • Elizabeth Aston, author of The World, the Flesh and the Bishop, she also writes under the name Elizabeth Edmondson.
  • Nancy Barone Wythe, romantic suspence author of the Sicilian Lovers trilogy who lives and writes on Sicily (can you tell I am a tad bit envious?) 🙂
  • Anselm Audley, fantasy author of the Aquasilva Trilogy and publisher behind Attica Books (ask him about the evil uncle!)
  • Cassy Pickard, mystery writer and Italophile who has also been helping me whip my project into shape.
  • S.G. Redling, thriller writer whose debut novel, Flowertown, is available for pre-order now.
  • Ingrid Christensen, chef/writer/restorer of Italian villa, read her blog and follow the progress of her restoration project in Abruzzo.
  • Rosemary Laurey, romance writer and author of Chase the Cook, who knows a thing or two about dragons.
  • Ann Reavis, freelance travel writer and tour guide whose working on a YA novel that sounds amazing.
  • Christine Witthohn, literar agent and owner of Book Cents Literary Agency, who facilitates for us and tries to keep us focused.

This list is incomplete and I will add everyone else soon but it’s enough to get you started. So what are you waiting for? 🙂