Christmas Suggestions for Readers and Others…

I do this every now and again, and 2020 is a good year to boost books you enjoyed. It’s been a bad year for releases, as far as in-person events go. Authors have suffered, and bookstores have suffered. Here’s a few book suggestions for those on your list (Or for yourself! We all deserve to pamper ourselves after the year we’ve had!)…these are books I read and loved this year.

Before the books, though, I’d like to highlight another kind of gift! Small businesses just starting out right now are the kind of thing we need! I know just the one to support. LET’S TALK ABOUT SIMCOE & CO.! From their simple but elegant branding, to their FRESH products, I love everything about them!Click on the logo image below to head over to their Facebook page:

Full Disclosure: This brand new company is my niece’s brainchild. They’ve just released their first product in time for Christmas. If you’re in the GTA area (or even if you’re not) check them out at the link in the logo above. They’re located in Port Perry, Ontario and they’re currently featuring SUGAR SCRUBS in various delectable scents.

Their products are cruelty free and vegan. Give their Facebook page a like so you can watch as things unfold!

BOOKS? BOOKS! Did someone say books?

I’m going to suggest 5 from the 25 I read so far this year. Honestly, though, all the books I read this year were awesome. For the ones I don’t highlight here, you can check them out on my Goodreads.

(CLICK ON COVERS TO VISIT AMAZON LINKS)

For travelers and wanderlusters–or those thinking of becoming one–I have just the book! No surprise I read a lot of Camino books. I just finished two more, and I’m about to highlight both of them! First is the travel memoir…

There’s Something Going On! Walking the Camino de Santiago – by Simon Donlevy.

If I say this felt like an audio-book without the audio, you might look at me kind of funny…but that’s exactly what it felt like. Simon Donlevy is a storyteller. I felt like the author was telling me the story of the 6 month sabbatical they took. This retelling of the sabbatical not only covers their travels on the Camino, but also the decisions and planning that went into taking the sabbatical and the trip to Spain. And it covers the after-Camino experience as well. I found it well told and quite enjoyable. Wasn’t fully what I was expecting. That’s what I love about Camino books…they’re always about more than just the Camino. They’re about decisions, plans, serendipity, the unexpected. If you have walked the Camino, you’ll enjoy this book for taking you back to the journey. If you haven’t, it’s a good primer for getting to know both the locations on the Camino and its magic.

Camino Maggie: Teen Rebel Series – by Joy Llewellyn

Truth be told, it feels almost risky telling you about this one! The synopsis is close to the synopsis of my most recent release. It follows four young teens (all girls) who walk the Camino de Santiago in order to avoid the punishment of their crimes. I just found out about this book in November and read it out of curiosity. I loved it! Maggie is a rich girl who breaks into her aunt’s store out of some sense of daring…not to mention to impress the boy who sort of put her up to it. She gets caught. Her Aunt Camille suggests (gives her no option, really) she accompanies her, her friend Andy, and a small group of delinquents to Spain for the experience. The four girls bond as they make their way across Spain. I think young adults would really enjoy this book…as well as any Camino enthusiasts.

Chasing the Sun (The Campfire Series Book One) – by Melanie Hooyenga

This is also a YA book. I’ve spent most of my reading year reading YA…both for pleasure and because it’s what I write. Teens would love this book…but as with all YA books, they’re not just for teens. Anyone on your list who enjoys a sweet love story will enjoy Chasing the Sun. Here’s my review from Goodreads…

Chasing the Sun was such a lovely falling-in-love story between two extremely vulnerable teens who were both a little reluctant to do so. Sage comes to the story having experienced an emotionally tumultuous relationship with a manipulative emotional abusive partner. Neb arrives having just lost his father suddenly in an extremely traumatic way. Together they navigate a path toward each other first through texts and then in person when they finally meet at a summertime school camping trip to view a total solar eclipse together. Both are tentative but excited. Sage wants to believe in love again, but doesn’t fully trust her own judgement. Neb is adjusting to a new city…and isn’t quite sure how to allow himself to feel joy while simultaneously mourning the loss of his father. When Sage and Neb do meet in person, sparks fly immediately. But are sparks enough? This story is filled with wonderfully cute falling in love moments. The eclipse almost becomes a character as the story winds down and the tension mounts and the moment of the eclipse nears. I loved everything about this story!

Now for a book with a one-two punch!

Surrender Your Sons – by Adam Sass

I absolutely loved this book and the power it gave to gay teens! I felt like I could conquer the world after reading this heartbreaking heartrending heartracing story! Get it for LGBTQIA+ readers on your list, whether or not they’re teens. We all carry wounds and trauma that will be both re-lit and assuaged by this book. It would also be an eye-opening read for straight readers. It’s a powerhouse. I honestly thought I reviewed this on Goodreads, as I have talked about it so much and so often that I misremembered actually leaving a review. I will have to rectify that. Just take my word for it, it’s an incredible book. Follow gay teens to a formidable island of oppression as their whisked off from their lives to a disgusting conversion camp. Watch as they try to take their fates into their own hands.

Last, but not least, a book from a pub-sib! From DUET BOOKS, the same Interlude Press imprint that published my latest, The Camino Club.

The Summer of Everything – by Julian Winters

I love Julian Winters books. Like their author, they just radiant light and joy. My Goodreads review below isn’t really enough. Winters’ books are always exceptional! This one was no less so. All readers would love this YA set in Santa Monica. Here’s the synopsis:

Adulting is hard. Just ask Wes Hudson. An avid comic book geek, Wes excels at two things: slacking off and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ‘90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local indie bookstore, is threatened when a coffee shop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his family won’t stop pestering him about picking a college major. When all three problems converge, Wes must face the one thing he’s been avoiding—adulthood.

And my review: Another amazing offering from the incomparable Julian Winters. Loved, loved, loved this story! Loved Wes and Nico and Ella and Coop and the rest of the group! This so so heartfelt! Bring tissues.

That’s 5 books and 1 fantastic small business that promises to have you savoring the aromas of Bergamot, Peppermint, Maple Syrup and more!

Happy 2020 Socially Distant Masked Christmas to you all!

 

 

 

 

Zuzu’s Petals! Make Your Magic Authentic to Your Readers!

Unless one has never heard of the invention of a television, it’s fairly safe to assume that we all know the reference ZUZU’S PETALS. In case one among you (AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) has not yet seen a particular movie, I shall explain Zuzu’s Petals before going into the point I want to make about writing. (-:

ZUZU’S PETALS. They are perhaps the most glorious evidence of magic that we have in the universe today. Let’s just go right to it, shall we. Behold! Zuzu’s petals!

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ZUZU and her PETALS!

 

Aren’t they glorious!? The most beautifully gorgeous symbolism in all of moviedom! Yes…I’m excited. Of course I’m excited. I get excited every time I think about those petals. And tis the season.

In the above picture you will see Zuzu Bailey and her father George Bailey. They are characters in the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Zuzu’s story is a sad one. But it’s also one that is, at first glance, such a small insignificant role in the vast scheme of things. At first glance. I’m going to forgo the announcement that a spoiler follows here. Because all but maybe one of you have seen It’s a Wonderful Life.

Zuzu comes home from school with a beautiful flower and can’t wait to show her father. But some of the petals have fallen off. George, in his infinite desire to please everyone–and especially his lovely Zuzu–pretends to reattach the petals. But he secretly slips them into his pocket. Zuzu’s tragedy is averted, and her love and adoration for her father grows three sizes that day. Her flower is returned to its beautiful self and her tears retreat.

George Bailey then falls into the rabbit hole. He is taken into a world that would be the world how it would exist if he had never been born. It’s a much bleaker, darker world. It’s quite frankly a terrible world. It’s also a world in which Zuzu’s petals do not exist–no George means no Zuzu. Folks, don’t ever shout to the universe, “I WISH I WAS NEVER BORN!” That’s a rabbit hole you will not want to go down, right there.

As the movie wraps up, George is allowed to reverse his error and come back into the world he left behind. He has seen the vast changes his life-force has created in the world. He knows that the third rock from the sun is a better place with him in it. His faith in humanity is restored and he feels glorious.

Of course, he must be thinking, ‘Wow. What an awesome dream!‘ Because something otherworldly like that just can’t happen, right? But lo and behold…George Bailey reaches into his pocket and what does he find there? You guessed it! ZUZU’S PETALS. They were a huge symbol the whole time. Right in front of our noses. George IS. And how does he know he is? Because ZUZU is. Because…Zuzu’s petals!

“Zuzu’s petals…Zuzu… There they are!”

Today’s lesson for writers is simple. In truth, I just wanted an excuse to talk about Zuzu’s petals. Because they’re glorious and what not.

Firstly, did you know that It’s a Wonderful Life is based on a short story called The Greatest Gift. Written by Philip Van Doren Stern, it was privately published. I have to wonder if that means self-published.

My point? I do have one. No matter what magic you write into your story, it must be authentic. I use the term magic loosely here, because this can apply to any genre…not just magical realism or fantasy or paranormal or anywhere you would normally find MAGIC. I’m talking about anything from coincidences to ghosts to flying to world-building to Zuzu’s petals. Put clues in your work to authenticate the reality you want your reader to step into. Subtle clues. Tidbits of information that they can reflect back on when they reach the story’s conclusion. Something that will make them go, “AHA!”

I don’t know about you…but I eat that stuff up. I was just a child when I first watched It’s a Wonderful Life. And, for me…the most magical part wasn’t George suddenly running through a town that was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the same town we were just previously shown. The most magical part wasn’t the way people who lived as adults had suddenly died as children and lived-in houses became empty haunted spaces and even the TOWN became renamed in the blink of an eye. The most magical part were those petals. Placed lovingly into a pocket in the most subtle way…so that I would both remember their significance and forget their significance. Those petals were a glorious flower themselves…planted as a seed in a threadbare pocket. And when they blossomed, when George reached into his pocket and discovered those beautiful babies…well, my world stopped.

So the lesson for writers today is this—do that! Give your readers a whole boatload of Zuzu’s petals. Be like Hansel and Gretel. Leave glorious breadcrumbs throughout your story…breadcrumbs that will validate the story itself, make it more authentic. Every reader loves a great AHA moment. Just don’t manipulate them. Your breadcrumbs can’t have huge glowing neon signs on them that scream, “LOOK AT ME!” They need only be a few crumpled petals placed lovingly in a pocket in an effort to staunch the tears of a loved one.