Friday, May 22, 2015

#MMBBR Showcase with review: The Button Collector by Elizabeth Jennings


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On a gray day at a gritty flea market, Caroline stumbles upon an unlikely treasure—jars and jars of buttons in a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors.
She is reminded of something she has made herself forget—she too has a jar of buttons, an inheritance from her mother, which Caroline has put on the back of a shelf, out of sight, out of mind, out of her life. 

That night, Caroline takes the jar down from the shelf. Intending only to look at the buttons, she opens the lid . . . and pours out her family's secrets.

THE BUTTON COLLECTOR unfolds with a series of vignettes in which each button reveals a piece of the complicated history of Caroline's family. A tragic accident has forever altered the relationship between Caroline, her mother Emma, and her cousin Gail. Caroline sifts through the joys and anguishes of the past, bringing both herself and the reader to the realization that memories—like buttons—can sometimes be used to fasten together something we have left undone by mistake.


A wonderfully woven story created over an original and interesting set of circumstance.  When Caroline finally decided to look at the jar of buttons that she got from her late mother through her inheritance she never imagined the path it would take her down.  When she opens her jar of buttons she also opens up the details of her family's past.  This novel is full of heart and really highlights the power of memories, the powerful connection we have to the objects we own and how, sometimes, the objects hold onto the secrets of the past.  They can transcend the limits of memory....they can take us places we have long since forgot or places we never even knew existed.   I really enjoyed this original and compelling novel.  I really enjoyed that the novel was a collection of vignettes.  4.5 stars

Elizabeth   Jennings

Elizabeth Jennings has worked as a features writer, copywriter, tutor, and adjunct instructor, but first and foremost, she is a reader on the hunt for the next great story. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including Prime Number Magazine, Apalachee Review, and the children’s magazine Ladybug. A native of Clemson, South Carolina, she earned degrees in English from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and The University of Delaware. She lives with her family within view of Mount Pisgah in the ancient and lush Blue Ridge Mountains. 

As both author and reader, Jennings has a deep affinity for quiet, character-driven stories and novels. She also has a fondness for frame tales and interconnected stories in which the individual pieces offer commentary on each other and come together to create a mosaic of various textures and moods. Since college, she has been fascinated with different forms of female creativity and the ways it has been expressed historically. 

The Button Collector, released May 6 2013, is her first novel and is based on the idea that the smallest things around us can have meaning and offer perspective on the larger story that is our life. 





Q.  What inspires your writing?

A.  This varies quite a bit.  With THE BUTTON COLLECTOR, my inspiration was the overall concept of little discarded items coming together to create a beautiful whole.  I have a short story called THE SNAKE HANDLERS’ ORPHAN that came about after I heard a story on the news and then a distinct voice began echoing in my mind and pretty much told the story to me.  I have another novel concept that started out as just an idea for a title more than 20 years ago and is finally coming together.  For me, ideas are the easy part; carrying through on them is another story!

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

A. I would say it’s getting to that point in a project—and it doesn’t have to be a book or story, necessarily—when all the different threads that were floating around come together in a way I never imagined and it seems as if they were meant to be that way from the beginning--I just didn’t know it.  There’s a concept in psychology called “flow” and it’s about the state of mind in which a person is both deeply relaxed and intently focused. I think this describes what is happening at that point.  It’s about as close to magic as I’m ever going to get.   

Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?

A. I am disorganized and have a hard time with self-imposed deadlines and goals.  I loved working with my editor, Rebecca Seum at PageSpring, because she gave me just enough guidance and deadlines to help me pull my manuscript together in a purposeful way.  It was rewarding to see how quickly this could happen.


Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?


A.  This is the easiest question in the whole entire universe!  I would be a librarian.  I love reading even more than writing, and sometimes I can’t stop myself from recommending books to people whether they asked for my help or not.  I actually started a library program when I was a new mom, but I’m really bad at multi-tasking and had to drop out. 


Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?


A.  SHARP CURVE AHEAD


Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?


A. Anne Tyler’s SAINT MAYBE is my go-to all-time favorite, although I have other favorites, too, depending on what’s going on in my life.  SAINT MAYBE stands out because it is most similar to what I try to create in my own writing--that is capturing the humanity of ordinary people who are struggling to do the right thing. 


Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?


A. For some reason, Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD comes to mind.  I think because I also grew up in the deep South and we’re both quiet observers of life.  Or maybe it’s just because Gregory Peck from the movie version reminds me of my father! 

Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?

A. In THE BUTTON COLLECTOR, I identify with most of the female characters and see parts of myself in each of them, but Caroline, the protagonist, is probably the closest to me.  We both have a bit of a desire to chafe against the way Southern women are pigeon-holed into certain roles.  I think Caroline’s struggle to figure out who she is and how she fits in definitely comes from my own experience even though our circumstances are quite different. 


Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?


A.   Probably James Herriot’s ALL CREATURES series of books—the landscape always struck me as so beautiful and the people are so mellow and down to Earth.  It just seems like an ideal world to visit for a while.  


Q.  What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?


A.  I don’t think I want to be famous, but I would like for someone to stumble upon my writing and find something meaningful in it even after a century has gone by.  I think the ability of books to span time is one of their most powerful qualities. 


Q.  What is your favorite season?


A.  Autumn.  I love its subtleties.  It has a settling-down, calm feeling as opposed to the frenetic growing hustle of spring.  I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains and it’s really hard to think of anything more beautiful than watching the leaves turn color here. 


Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?


A.  In a way, my book offered a natural cover idea because it includes a strong visual image of Caroline pouring the buttons out of the jar as she begins telling stories.  Even so, I was nervous waiting to see what my publisher’s artist would do with that concept.  Fortunately, Britanee Sickles created a cover that is beautiful and captivating.  My book is also unusual in that each chapter has a pen and ink drawing of the button that inspired its story and I was delighted with how they came out as well.  Sarah Algire was the artist for those.


Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting yourbook.


A. Okay—I have to explain that while I like buttons and have come to appreciate them as little bits of history and art, I’m not a serious button collector in real life.  It’s been eye-opening to discover the world of button collecting as I market the book.  There are societies and competitions and conventions and everything else.  Because my book page on Facebook is also called The Button Collector, I get people asking me how much their buttons are worth and I have no idea whatsoever.  I do, however, invite readers to send in a picture of a button and I will write a flash fiction piece about it for my blog.  That’s a lot of fun. 


Q.  Are you working on something new?


A. Always, but I’m very superstitious and don’t say a lot about my writing until it’s found a home.   


Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?


A.  My publisher just did an Amazon kindle giveaway for five days. As part of the deal, the book won't be available through other online stores for a few months.  On the other hand, more than 12,000 got a free kindle version of my book, which is very exciting!  

Links: 

#MMBBR Highligh: No Perfect Fate by Jackie Weger

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Cleo Anderson’s people skills are hesitant and her life broken, yet she is determined to leave her past behind. Alone is good and she is finding her way. On a whim, she parks her Play-mor in a fish camp in the wilds of the Okefenokee Swamp, where gators yawn, bears slumber, and snakes slither. The camp pace is slow, the owner kind, and the people friendly. Cleo encounters Fletcher Freemont Maitland and his goddaughter, eleven year-old Katie. Cleo didn’t know her life was about to unravel yet again, her heart would shatter, and that Fletcher Maitland would help her mend. But Cleo is about to find these things out the hard way. Both Fletcher and Katie will change her life and if Cleo does not learn to accept that life is bountiful and fate imperfect, she will lose both forever. 

Jackie Weger


Jackie Weger

I would rather write an obit than my bio, mostly because I'm one of the most boring souls you'll ever meet. I have been to interesting places and met interesting people, but none of it rubbed off on me. Some of those places and some of those people found their way into characters or settings in my romance novels which lends me about an inch of panache--on the table below the salt. With family or solo, I've traveled since I was about eleven. I spent years living abroad in Central America in little jungle villages absorbing the native culture and language. I spent months on off-islands and sailed in the Pacific with a friend until his sloop sank--not with us on it--thank goodness. I spent a New Year's in Montreal, a summer semester in the U.K and a few glorious days in Paris before returning Stateside to finish a degree in history, then it was off to Panama and Costa Rica. While my passport is always handy, I've settled down in Texas to be near my family. Since I'm sitting still, I've plugged in my laptop and started writing again. After an absence of a few years, I've jumped back into the publishing world which has changed dramatically. I love the changes. In the past, category romance novels had a shelf life between yogurt and ice cream, but with the advent of e-books they can live on the Web for years. I'm excited to be publishing my backlist. I'm working on a new novel. I live with a man, a dog, seven feral cats and go to Bingo on Friday night. The most exciting thing that's happened in my life recently is a cow wandered into my yard and ate my garden. See what I mean about being boring? 




Showcase: SCENT OF TRIUMPH by Jan Moran

SCENT OF TRIUMPH by Jan Moran (St. Martin’s Griffin; March 31):  In this debut novel by recognized beauty expert Jan Moran, an aristocratic French perfumer is caught in the perils of WWII. Her family torn apart by the impending German invasion of France and Poland, Danielle Bretancourt must decide whether to stay in Europe to find her missing son or flee to the United States to save whose remaining. Though heartbreaking at times, this story is inspiring as Danielle uses her passion of perfume to lift herself and her family out of the distress from the war. Jan is an expert in vintage perfumes and the creator of Scentsa, a touch-screen fragrance program in Sephora stores in the US, Canada, and elsewhere. Her knowledge brings a tangibility to the world ofScent of Triumph, as each chapter opens with a lyrical quote from Danielle’s journal.

JAN MORAN is the author of Fabulous Fragrances I and II, which earned spots on the Rizzoli Bookstore bestseller list. A fragrance and beauty expert, she has been featured in numerous publications and on television and radio, including CNN, Instyle, and O Magazine, and has spoken before prestigious organizations, including The American Society of Perfumers. She earned her MBA from Harvard Business school and attended the University of California at Los Angeles Extension Writers' Program.




Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

 A. Just one? Oh, the pressure! It’s a tie between A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. No, really.

 Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

 A. Definitely Emma Harte from A Woman of Substance. She’s determined and never takes no for an answer. She makes mistakes, but perseveres and triumph.

 Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?

 A. My characters are fictional, but those who know me certainly see a few of my traits in Danielle Bretancourt, the main character in SCENT OF TRIUMPH. We both love a good Bordeaux, Mitsouko, and beautiful clothes. (If that’s not a Taurus woman, I don’t know what is.) Danielle loves her children, and is incredibly resourceful and determined — like so many women I know and admire.

 Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

 A. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Paris of the 1920s -- what’s not to love?

 Q.  What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?

 A. SCENT OF TRIUMPH, a beloved award-winning film and book!
Actually, that I loved my family and managed to write a little.

 Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. Ah, spring -- I adore the fresh scents that perfume the air — jasmine, rose, gardenia, orange blossoms. Just breathe….

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?

A. The stunning lavender and coral roses on SCENT OF TRIUMPH are lush and evocative – the colors are brilliant, and I can just imagine the scent of roses rising from the cover. There’s also a magnificent sepia photo of Paris on the cover.

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A. At one event we had four authors on a panel, but only a handful of people in the audience. As the night wore on we joked around, a faux fight broke out, photos were snapped, and it caused quite a ruckus when it hit social media! Honestly, we were kidding…

Q.  Are you working on something new?
A. Always! I’m finishing my next historical novel for St. Martin’s Press. All I can say is, if you like wine, you’ll definitely want to read this one. I also write a series of contemporary novels set in the beauty industry and Beverly Hills, so I’m always busy.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  Find a little something to savor in each and every day. Books, shared laughter, a sunrise or sunset.

Showcase: THE THUNDER OF GIANTS by Joel Fishbane

THE THUNDER OF GIANTS by Joel Fishbane (St. Martin’s Press; April 14): From Canadian novelist and playwright JoelFishbane, comes the extraordinary, out-of-this-world tale of The Thunder of Giants. Nearly 8-feet tall and hoping to build a better life for her children, Andorra Kelsey escapes to Hollywood to star in a film about Anna Swan, the giantess who toured the world as part of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum decades earlier. Their stories parallel each other as both women struggle to find tranquility in a world that sees them as anything but human. Anna and Andorra long for normalcy, but first must tackle the society that is too small to contain them. Will Anna and Andorra find love and peace? Will society see them as more than the mere sum of their measurements? This story, with its underlying themes of the ever-present issues of body image in society, captivated my heart and blew me away.

JOEL FISHBANE is a novelist, playwright, sous-chef, actor, trivia host, amateur boxer, occasional clarinet player and general man about town. His various plays, short stories, articles, critiques and literary musings have been published, performed, honored, and otherwise applauded in Canada, the United States and Europe. He lives in Toronto and almost always wears a hat. For more information, visit www.joelfishbane.com



Q.  What inspires your writing?
A.   Usually reading non-fiction. It exposes me to worlds, events, and ideas which I don’t encounter in my day to day life. On the other hand, reading really good fiction writers inspires me to. I suppose the first inspires me by telling me what to write while the second provides suggestions on how to go about doing it.
Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an writer?
A.    The fact that my work will go into the world and have a life of its own that has nothing to do with me. I love that I never know who’s reading my work – or how my work might inspire them just as the work of others has inspired me.
Q.  What is the toughest part of being an writer?
A.     That no one is asking you to be one. Seriously. You always hear about how we need more doctors. But no one says “What we really need is more novelists.” In the beginning, the only person who really wants you to be a writer is you, which is why it’s good to get people reading your stuff ASAP. The sooner people support you, the easier it’ll be, especially if those people are you parents – paper and ink are expensive.
Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
A. Musical theatre superstar. Unless I’m limited by my current talents / abilities, in which case I’d just be a regular theatre superstar. My dancing needs a lot of work.
Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?
A.  The title isn’t important, but if it’s not a musical, then someone really hasn’t done their research.
Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?
A.   The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving.
 Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?
 A.    Rob Fleming from “High Fidelity.”
 Q.  What character from all of your book are you most like?
 A.     Well, there’s a little of me in all my characters, but I’d say Nicholas (Andorra’s husband) is a not-so-disguised version of me. Except I’m a Mets fan and when I was in Henry V, I did not get a bad review. (I didn’t get a good review either. The exact quote was “Joel Fishbane makes a strong impression as the wily Pistol” – which sort of left things open to interpretation.)
Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
 A.     The answer I want you to print:      One Hundred Years of Solitude
The answer I want to say:     The Hotel New Hampshire
          The real answer:     The Cat in the Hat. 
Q.  What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?
A. As the author of several books, one of which students are forced to read and so initially loathe it because they have to write essays about it but eventually, later in life, they go back to it and realize it was a pretty good book after all.
Q.  What is your favorite season?
A. Autumn. I look really good in a sweater.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A.                                                   While I love the cover design for my book, I actually prefer book covers that have no picture – just the title and the author’s name. That being said, I love this cover for “Love in the Time of Cholera” because it’s very arresting and enigmatic – as you read the book, you can keep going back to the cover and find you interpret it in different ways.  
Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.
A.  Just started promoting the book, so nothing funny has happened yet. But I’m sure at some point I’ll get hit in the face with a pie. It’s really just a matter of time.  
Q.  Are you working on something new?
A.  Always. I’m finishing my next book and researching my third. Naturally, I can’t tell you anything about it, other than the story is brilliant and the spelling is pretty good.
Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  "I am completely indifferent to what is written about me. I only get upset when they don't write" - Sergei Dovlatov


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